Is it possible to market your novel for free? Let’s take a closer look…
It boils down to this: The more time you put into your book launch, the more successful it will be. But does your time cost money? Not really, unless you are taking time off work.
But still, you have to get creative and put in a lot of man (or woman) hours. It’s all about building a platform, a following, making connections, and getting the word out. To do this, you are going to need a plan, each step needs a deadline, all leading up to your books release date.
It doesn’t stop there.
You will need to continue the same activities to keep the momentum and build sales after the publication date.
It’s a lot of work.
Let’s break it down, and please note this is simply about marketing your novel. Costs involved in editing, printing, and publishing your book are not included here. All of the aspects I’m discussing are things that fellow authors are currently using to market their novel. Things that work.
Building a platform.
This basically boils down to having an online presence. A place that gives all the information about your published works, tells readers where to buy your book, and offers a way to engage your readership. This can be through social media sites, blogs, or building your own free website (make sure that you are not then hit with web hosting fees.) From speaking to fellow authors who’ve had success in this medium, the more interactive platforms garner the most success. Again, it boils down to how much time and effort you donate to the cause – and finding a medium that works for you. I’ve spoken to published authors who’ve had varying tracked sales from sites like facebook, WordPress, Instagram, tumblr, YouTube and twitter.
Facebook requires you to post regularly, and authors have had more sales conversions in interacting with writing groups and book clubs. Some have tried facebook adds, (which cost money) but have had little to no success in that converting to sales. I only think facebook adds work in conjunction with other types of marketing, and if you are more established so the public will recognise your book or name. Facebook was also great in contacting readers for reviews on ARC copies – which when posted on Amazon and Goodreads promote your book prior to its release.
Social media allows you to grow, and tap into communities, build hype, and pull together a street team creating buzz about your upcoming release (like a book tour.) Just about every author I’ve spoken to about this has said the minimum amount of time they spent building a following was around a year. Which, if you are planning a book release in advance is not too bad. You need to initiate marketing activity at least six months before the release date if you want to see a response in your sales.
Creating this type of buzz also turns into presales. You can get your following to buy immediately through presale options available on Amazon. The more sales you make, the higher your ranking, and the more Amazon will make your book visible in their recommendations section. So, planning is key!
Through the various aspect of your online platform you can collect email addresses to send out updates and reminders of your release date. It helps to prompt your readership to get sales. But don’t spam the heck out of them – it will have the reverse effect.
With the interaction you have with people on social media, it creates a relationship. They become invested in your novel, in you as a person, in your career. That translates into sales, support, and book reviews. They can also provide constructive criticism and help you grow into a better writer.
You can do this same type of activity in person.
At book clubs, at free seminars and workshops at your local library. You never know who that one ‘person of influence’ is that will catapult your books exposure to the next level.
Build a press kit.
Have it ready and contact newspapers, magazines, television talk shows, radio stations, podcasts, review sites. You never know which one of these will run with a story. That is valuable exposure. It just takes time and research.
Generally you want to start contacting media outlets around three months before your release date to cash in on momentum – and give them enough time to publish or air an article.
Enter writing competitions.
There are a numerous competitions running annually. If your novel meets the criteria for entry, why not submit it. Many require no entry fee – but some do. I know three authors who did not win, but were placed in the top five, or got an honourable mention. This is a great thing to entice a publishing company to spend more money on a marketing campaign. It gives your writing credence and exposes your manuscript to a wider variety of publishing professionals.
Being shortlisted for a prize is something you can put on your cover, list in your books description. It substantiates you as an author. Plus all those people who entered and monitor the competition are likely to purchase a copy of your novel.
Collaborative Advertising in End Pages.
This is a bit of out-of-the-box thinking for those who go the self-publishing route, because you control the content in the blank pages at the back of the book. A group of authors who help each other out as critical partners came up with the idea of promoting each other’s novels in the end pages of their releases. You get a page to essentially place an advertisement for another author’s book, and in turn they do the same for you. And on e-book releases, you can include a link direct to your sales platform (be it Amazon, or a private e-store.)
Book Subscription Boxes.
There are a number of subscription services out there. They have different criteria for their featured novels, and a lot of the time they are themed. Do some research and see if your novel meets that criteria and contact them and see if they are interested in featuring your book. You can time it with your release date. It’s free marketing for your novel, reaching an already established and eager audience.
Release a free companion novella.
Many authors do this, it a smart technique. Essentially you are giving away a free teaser of your novel. It’s usually in the form of an e-book and hooks the reader to order (or pre-order) your novel upon completion. Or you could use it as a free gift with purchase. ‘Buy my novel and receive this limited edition bonus material you can’t get anywhere else.’ It’s a bonus, it’s exclusive, only available from your platform for a short window of time.
Swapping banner ads, or collaborative advertising.
I’ve seen this done with limited success. You have to be tapped into your demographic, and you need to choose an equitable product/market willing to do the same. You both advertise, or talk about each other’s product (or novel) on your platform. It does work, but I think it takes a lot of time to find the perfect fit and get the advertising part right.
Word of mouth recommendations are what drives the publishing industry. ARC copies of your novel can make or break your book release. Make sure you have your book listed for pre-sale so people can reserve a copy, and then those who read your ARC can write their reviews and it goes live instantly. Make sure the people you approach for reviews are not the victim of spamming emails or cold contact. The whole point of having a platform is to build relationships. Don’t send a free copy to a YouTube book reviewer and expect the sales to come pouring in. They don’t know you. Your book is likely to get shelved or donated and no exposure will come to fruition. Book reviewers love books, love authors. If you take the time to connect and build a relationship, their likely to reciprocate. Make sure they are in your target demographic and enjoy reading your genre before you even think of supplying a copy of your ARC.
Regardless if you are traditionally published, indie published or self-published, you should be doing your own form of marketing. Get creative. There are no rules in how to reach a prospective audience. I’ve even spoken to an author who garnered huge sales from touring schools across the country to talk about careers in writing for English classes. She wasn’t spruiking her book, but curious minds ended up becoming fans and purchased her novels. Some authors have run competitions to help promote their novel… do a bit of research and come up your own version. Writing can be a solitary endeavour, but publishing and marketing certainly are not. If you are a shy recluse, sorry but you are going to have to find some methods of building relationships with people in some form in order to promote your novel. There are so many ways to do this. Above are a number of things that I have seen work. It all comes down to planning and investing your time. Like building a business or renovating a house – the more time you put in of your own, the less you have to pay someone else to do it.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to other authors you love and asked what marketing methods worked for them. Many have their own platforms, an amazon or Goodreads page. What’s the worst that could happen, they not answer your question? No big loss. But if they do help you out, it’s as valuable as mentorship because you are getting valuable information that works from an industry professional.
Put your thinking caps on and best of luck.
© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.