Indie Authors – Promoting Your Book

As independent authors, or indie authors, you have a challenge that mainstream published authors do not – you are the sole person promoting your book.  I recently read a post by a mainstream published author and one of her comments was that indie authors (her term was self-published authors) have a much better understanding of book promotion and author branding.  She felt that almost all indie authors do a much better job of branding themselves.

I had to think about that, and my conclusion was, maybe the indie authors in her circle were great at branding themselves, but that’s not what I see (I’m purposefully not revealing this person because I thought this author seemed to reflect a bit of snobbery toward the indie author).  Many authors I interact with don’t seem to understand how to sell books – it’s the difference between being a writer and a marketer.  And authors (who want to sell books) have to be both.

As yourself these questions:

  • Do you know how to brand yourself correctly?
  • Do you know what that really means?
  • Are you effectively promoting your books and using your brand?
  • What do promoting and branding really mean?

Promoting your book is all about marketing your book, and believe me, too many authors don’t understand marketing.

Marketing Your Book – Branding

I write mystery novels.  I have the Reed Ferguson mystery series (This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies and Reel Estate Rip-off), and Nephilim Genesis of Evil, a supernatural thriller, or I could call it a horror book.  You’re saying to yourself – so what?  Exactly!  I’m just like thousands of other authors out in cyberspace (let alone at a bookstore).  As the author, I have to make readers care about my books.  I have to have a brand.

What does it mean to brand yourself?  Too many indie authors (and certainly mainstream authors) don’t have a clue as to what this really means.  Branding isn’t just saying:

  • I write mystery novels
  • I am an author of horror books
  • Read my mystery series
  • Readers couldn’t put my novel down
  • My novel is a page-turner
  • and so on

Guess what?  You and every other author out there is thinking the same thing.  Search on Amazon and Smashwords and see how many indie authors (and mainstream authors) make statements like that.  Now, please make sure you understand what I’m saying.  These are fine statements and they may absolutely be true of your books.  But everyone else is saying it, too.  It doesn’t let your readers know what makes you different.  It doesn’t tell the reader why they should buy your book instead of the other guy’s book.  When you take some time to figure out what makes your works unique from everything else out there, you’re on your way to figuring out your brand.

Marketing Your Book – The Reader Won’t Find You

In my post Indie Authors Miss Golden Opportunity, I talk about how indie authors need to really understand what constitutes quality writing before they publish.  Indie authors still fight the stigma that their books, by virtue of being self-published, must not be good.  My first bit of promoting advice is to always make sure your book is worthy of publication before you publish it.  Once you’ve published, if you want to make any money at it, you have to know how to promote your book as well.  It’s naive to think readers will just find you (there were millions of titles published last year alone) – yes, genre authors and non-fiction authors (who have a platform) do better, but there’s just too much out there to expect readers to scroll through Amazon or Barnes & Noble and stumble upon your works.  You have to do things to get readers to find you.  You need a platform, but you need to use it effectively.

Marketing Your Book – The Platform

Remember, you are the brand, and your books are an extension of the brand.  At bare minimum, you should being using the following to promote yourself and your books:

  • a Twitter account
  • a Facebook fan page
  • an author website
  • a Google+ account
  • a blog

Many authors still don’t have a blog, maybe because they don’t like the task of keeping up the blog, and that’s understandable, but you are missing out on a way of promoting your books, and your brand.  But here’s the key with anything you are using for your platform.  You have to use it, and use it well.  If you are on Twitter and all you do is self-promote, it’s not going to work well.  If you have a Facebook fan page, but you don’t ever post on it, people won’t come back.  Your author website needs to look professional (this is so critical to understand that I’ll be doing a post on this soon).  You absolutely need to be on Facebook and Google+.  Now, I am not a fan of Facebook or Google (I’ve even harped on how I thought Google+ was not worth the time but I’ve changed my mind), but they are critical for promotion.  Want to know why?  Check back here because I will be showing you why they are important in future posts, but it comes down to SEO.  If you don’t understand SEO, start learning.  It may be the best way for readers to find you.

A Final Thought

Remember, there are tons of books out there.  In this new age of publishing, there is a lot of crap out there, too.  Laura Miller (senior writer at Salon.com) wrote an interesting piece about this in 2010.  It’s a bit sarcastic, but it makes a great point about readers and bad writing and bad books.  Just think where things are now as we near 2012, with so many more indie authors publishing books.  There’s even more to choose from.

You are the brand.  You have to promote yourself.  You have to make it happen.  Good luck!

Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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10 Responses to Indie Authors – Promoting Your Book

  1. Excellent post. Indie authors need to be business minded. No way around it. What I still see out there, in the indie world, is the equivalent of plumbers driving rusty, run down trucks , ass crack showing and all, masquerading as professional service providers. Think business. Think professionalism on all levels.

    Part of the problem is the thinking that publishing has become so simple in the new ebook revolution. True. It’s easier. But doing it right is not. You have to work…above and beyond the “punching in and punching out” mentality of the employed. You have to operate like you are self-employed, because as an indie, you are. You HAVE to get professionally edited ~ and not by your old Enlish teacher, friend, spouse, or critique group (as great as their input can be). You have to do it right the first time, because deciding to re-write AFTER you get a dozen bad reviews is too late. Your book will be marked for all eternity as crap.

    Lets not forget cover art. Spend the money people. Lets face it. We can’t all do everything. Do the things you do well and pay someone else to do the rest. Trust me, you wouldn’t want Donald Trump laying the foundation to one of his buildings. ###

    • Great points I love your plumber analogy, made me laugh out loud. It’s true, being an author is being a business. I like to compare writing your book to sending out a resume – you wouldn’t send prospective employers a poorly written resume, and I don’t just mean one that has grammatical errors – it also should structurally make sense. Why would you take something like your book and put it out there before it’s great?
      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Great comments on branding there, not the way I usually think but I should do so. This is a smaller-scale tip in comparison, but indie writers need to get some nice contact cards that can double as bookmarks for promotion. I gave quite a few out at a talk I gave last night at a book festival, and make a point of inserting them into each print copy in case people want to follow me later – but at the very least it is an attractive freebie bookmark! The post is at http://karldrinkwater.blogspot.com/2011/11/promotion-with-business-cards.html

    • Great advice. I was primarily talking about online stuff, but you are so correct that there are many other ways to promote one’s work. Hmm, I’ll have to do a post on that – so many ideas, so little time….Thanks for your comment!

  3. Empi says:

    Great post. Very helpful. I’ll pass on the word

  4. Dave Sivers says:

    You’re so right, Renee. If you want to take the indie route to publication, the job is about for more than writing a good book. Marketing, marketing and marketing again are the keywords.
    All your tips are on the money, but here’s a few more: send out news releases to writing magazines and to your local press, including parish pump magazines – everyone who finds out about you is a potential reader, each with a network to recommend you to; look for opportunities to guest on writing-related blogs; and see if you can wangle invitatiosn to speak to groups – eBooking is a hot topic right now, and the stuff that interesting talks are made of.

  5. Troy Johnson says:

    Good points throughout. I like the way you link to your other articles — I ended up reading 5 Blog posts as a result.

    With regard to FaceBook, Twitter, Google+, Website & Blog, how would you rank them in order of importance?

    I wrote a Blog post called “Troy’s Triangle” for Publishing Success http://aalbc.it/troystriangle

    • ReneePawlish says:

      Thanks for your comments and compliment, I appreciate it. Linking is a piece that many bloggers miss, unfortunately.
      To your question, for authors, I think the blog is most important, but one has to know how to make it effective (target audience, visual, etc), Twitter, Facebook, Google+ (although ranking this one is tough, especially if you are focused on page rank – if so, you NEED to be active here), and then website (but again, if you are properly focused for page rank, a website can be invaluable). I hope that helps.
      I visited your blog post and commented – nicely done.

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