5 Ways to Market your Book that Don’t Feel Dirty

BooksI know a lot of writers that are scared of marketing their book, worried about annoying people, or coming across as rude. I know others that are confused by it, and don’t know where to start. I even know writers who refuse to do any marketing because they believe it to be evil in all of its forms.

I’ve thought all of these things myself, at one time or another. Somehow, marketing feels completely at odds with the creative act of writing a book. It feels like marketing it – thinking of the book as a product, thinking of yourself as a brand – somehow sullies it, turns it from a labour of love into something dirty, something to be hard sold to unwilling consumers.

I made the decision to complete a book marketing course, and it was the best decision I made. I was able to completely change my mindset. Because I learnt to market books properly without turning beloved readers into faceless customers.

But if you’re still uncomfortable with the concept, there are some ways to get your work out there that barely feel like marketing at all.

  1. Put yourself out there. Get yourself a presence online. Join social networks. Go to local literary festivals and conventions. Talk to people, make friends and connections. Just be your wonderful self.
  2. Start a conversation. Talk about what interests you, what you’re reading, the movies you like, music, fashion, gardening. Ask people questions, be interested in them. And when they ask what you do, tell them you’re an author. And when they ask what you’ve written, tell them. They’re asking because they’re already interested, there’s no need to hard sell.
  3. Club together. Submit your book to a group promotion. These are always happening, so find one for your genre (or a mixed genre promotion), and the platform you use (BookFunnel, Instafreebie, Kindle Unlimited, Amazon countdown deal), and join in. There are lots of Facebook groups set up solely to organise group promos. When you promote the promo, you’re not saying “Buy my book! Buy my book!”, you’re simply saying “Hey, check out all these great books, why not grab a few?”
  4. Pay it forward. If you find it hard to push your own book, why not push someone else’s? Share other authors’ posts, and many will share yours too. Or reach out to them and organise a swap. Just bear in mind point No 2 above; don’t turn your social media page into a stream of book promos.
  5. Remember that you’re a reader too. Book marketing 101 is to know your ideal reader, and to be where they are. There are genre reading groups on the social networks. Join in. Chat about the books you love too. ALWAYS check the group’s rules on self promo before posting a link to your own book. Or, if you feel uncomfortable pushing your own work, just make friends, and tell them about your book when they ask.

What Have You Got to Say for Yourself? (30 Author Newsletter Content Ideas)

EnvelopeA mailing list can be a fantastic way to gain loyal fans and keep in touch with them. While some authors view them as a pointless distraction, others are eagerly gaining subscribers and sending out regular mailings.

Starting a mailing list can seem like a daunting, time-consuming task, and coming up with content can often be a struggle. Especially when you have no news on the book side of things, or if you’re yet to publish your first fable.

So here’s a few ideas to keep you going for a while…

Your Story:

  • How, why, and when you started writing
  • People who have inspired you
  • Bad writing advice you’ve tried to follow
  • The worst thing you ever wrote
  • Your plotting technique
  • About where you write
  • Share your love of stationery
  • Your pre-writing routine
  • Your favourite writing snacks
  • The weirdest place you’ve done some writing

Your Story’s Story:

  • Interviews with your characters
  • Short scenes with your characters
  • The world your story is set in
  • Backstory
  • The history of your world
  • Research you’ve done
  • Life stories of small side characters
  • A newspaper from your world
  • Fashion from your world
  • Your character’s favourite hangouts

Other People’s Stories:

  • What you’re currently reading
  • Book reviews
  • Author interviews
  • Author/book spotlights
  • Guest posts
  • Book promotions/giveaways

One important thing to bear in mind with your newsletter is that it should be a conversation, not simply a stream of consciousness. People like to engage when you give them the opportunity.

Your Readers’ Stories:

  • Ask what they’re reading
  • Ask them to share their favourite book covers
  • Ask them to name a character in your book
  • Create an ‘ask me anything’ event/opportunity

And remember, when people respond to you, always reply. Make them feel valued. Share their responses in your next newsletter. Be personable, approachable, and real.

5 Ways to Find Beta Readers

What is a beta reader?
Let’s start by defining what a beta reader is, and why they’re so important. A beta reader is someone who reads your book before it’s published and offers constructive criticism. This feedback informs your final run of edits to make your book as good as it can be before publication or submission.

Why do I need beta readers?
Editing and proofing your own work is an almost impossible task. You’re too close to the project, you know what it’s meant to say, and you become blind to its problems and mistakes.

Betas can also read your work as readers would, with a detachment you can never achieve yourself. They’ll pick up on plot holes and typos you’ll overlook. They’ll react to the emotions and tension, be surprised by reveals. They’ll find parts that need clarification, or that move too slowly, characters that don’t work, dialogue that’s unrealistic, things that need more description, or less. They’ll tell you what works and what doesn’t with a perspective you can’t have yourself.

What makes a good beta reader?
Finding beta readers is easy, but finding good beta readers is hard. A good beta reader can be anyone; a reader, a writer, even a close friend or family member. You’ll hear it said that friends and family aren’t good options because they’ll try to save your feelings. This isn’t always the case. If you can trust them to be brutally honest, then they can be just as useful as any other beta.

Because good beta readers do need to be brutally honest. They need to be able to tell you when something isn’t working, when you’ve made a mistake. They also need to offer constructive criticism. “This doesn’t work”, or “this is boring” is no use to you if they don’t explain why. They don’t need to offer up solutions, that’s your job, but they do need to be able to explain their responses.

Good beta readers are worth their weight in gold, so when you do find some, make sure you keep hold of them.

Where can I find beta readers?

  • Ask friends and family. You need to be careful with this option and only choose people you can trust to be brutally honest. Beta readers are no use to you if they’re just being polite not to hurt your feelings.
  • Find reader groups in your genre. Search places like Facebook and GoodReads and you’re sure to find lots of keen readers.
  • Use fellow authors. Again, a search on Facebook or GoodReads will offer up several beta or review exchange groups.
  • Use your network. Post an open call for beta readers on your social networking profiles, and ask people to share.
  • Ask your mailing list subscribers. These are already fans of yours, and many of them will jump at the chance of reading your book before anyone else.

Where else have you found beta readers? What makes a good beta reader for you?

Why I’m an Indie Author

Bogus Caller Press Logo greyMy publishing journey began in the world of short stories, anthologies, and small presses. I love writing to a prompt, I work (quite) well with deadlines, and I enjoy trying to fit a story into a strict wordcount limit. I love trimming them down and editing the hell out of them.

But I wanted to spread my wings, stretch my legs, and switch from sprints to marathons. I knew I had something bigger inside of me.

When I first considered self publishing, it was still in its infancy; still viewed with suspicion, still considered to be the route for writers who weren’t good enough to get published. The first people I told about my plans actually laughed. But I wasn’t deterred.

I love learning new things and gaining new skills, so I decided right from the off that I wanted to learn how to do everything myself. There’s such a wealth of information out there, and so many people willing to help you on your journey.

When I published my first book, it came with such a huge sense of accomplishment. Not only had I acheived a long-held dream, but I’d done it by myself.

There are so many things I love about being an indie author, and so many reasons that it’s such a good fit for me:

  • I’m in control of everything, from start to finish.
  • My deadlines are more flexible. As the mother of two young boys, I’m not always as reliable as I’d like to be, but when the deadlines are self-imposed, they can be moved to fit my life.
  • I’m not waiting around for news. I always know what stage the project is at, and there’s no agonising wait for updates.
  • There’s always something new to learn.

Of course, there’s a lot of things I’ve struggled with. Marketing is a big one. I’ve heard it said by authors so many times, and I’ve said it myself: marketing is evil. Somehow, the creativity of writing feels totally at odds with the business of marketing. Marketing often feels dirty, like it sullies the creative work.

If you feel this way, all I can recommend is that you take a marketing course. There are lots out there specifically aimed at indie authors. Get recommendations from people you trust, and sign up. Doing a marketing course changed everything for me.

There are also things you need to outsource. And there are things you’ll want to outsource. I know how to format an ebook, but I outsource it because it’s a fiddle, and I just can’t be bothered with it. But I do format my own paperbacks. Any part of the publishing business you don’t want to do, there’s people out there to do it for you.

Always outsource your editing and proofreading, you just won’t see all the mistakes yourself. Always use beta readers. And, unless you really, REALLY are good at it, always outsource your cover design. It’s your shop window, and people do judge books by their covers, every time.

And decide if you want to write under an imprint. I do. Purely because I thought it would be fun to think up a name. So I publish my books under Bogus Caller Press. Some indie authors do, others don’t, I don’t think it makes much difference to readers.

Jumping into self publishing is a big decision, and a big commitment. If you’re willing to research, to learn, to take risks, to be flexible and to change your opinion about things, to ask questions and work hard, the benefits can be enormous.

Bogus Caller Press Logo

Why a Gamer is My Perfect Alpha Reader

Madmut ReloadedBefore publication, there are two kinds of readers a writer needs.

There are the famous Beta Readers; those that read the full book, picking up on the final edits and polishes needed to create the final published version. Beta Readers are absolutely worth their weight in gold.

Alpha Readers, meanwhile, fulfil an altogether different role. These guys are truly special. They work with the story at the planning stage, often before a single word of it has been written, before it has been fully outlined.

My Alpha Reader is my husband. He helps me plot out stories on long car journeys, quiet Sunday afternoons, while I wash and he dries. Sometimes, on special occasions, we’ll plot stories in coffee shops, over coffee and cake.

He helps me rank up the conflict, and comes up with practical solutions to my plot holes, and when I plot my characters into corners.

My husband’s a gamer. I often refer to myself as an X-Box widow, and joke that I come second in his affections (at least, I hope it’s just a joke!)

But his gaming obsession has taught him skills that I can really make use of: how to think himself out of a tight spot, how to utilise the tools around him, how to use the setting. It’s taught him about rising tension, conflict, story structure, and climaxes. It’s taught him about quests, character growth, and story arcs.

He may not be a huge reader, but he’s the best Alpha Reader I could hope for.