Unsure where yo start marketing fiction?
The sad fact of reality is if you try to publish your book on Amazon.com today and think you will be discovered by millions and be wildly successful, you’re going to have a bad time. Even publishers ask prospective authors what their online presence is like before taking them on. If you’re indie, you don’t even have the little crumbs of marketing that the publishers drop from their big nameplates.
You’ve got to do it yourself or be lost to the æther of the web.
Marketing is an investment
So where do you start? Do you have to spend money? Nothing is as frustrating as spending money on something, expecting a return and getting squat. I prefer free, or at least very cheap ways to market things initially. Marketing is an investment in your product and in yourself, and being smart about your investing is the way to success in indie publishing. Free or cheap, however, usually means time needs to be spent to gain traction, and money can be seen as a fast track to getting things done. This article assumes you are like me: someone getting by month by month in a job they loathe, without a million bucks in the bank account.
Let’s get this done without buying a page in the New York Times.
Facebook and Twitter
Everyone and their mums are on Facebook these days, and quite a lot of people use Twitter for whatever reason. This could be a great way to start, mostly because it’s free. You can, of course, pay for ads on these platforms, but that’s a quick way to be out of pocket without getting results (I’ve taken the liberty of losing some money this way so that you don’t have to). It is, however, a great grassroots place to set up. Start here.
Set up an Author Page
Since Facebook’s free (for now), I see no reason to not set up an author platform there. But noise in the wind is that Facebook Inc. wants to start charging for those and we can’t guarantee that Facebook will be available online forever. They can, on a whim, delete your profile or shut the whole thing down. Won’t be the best choice fiscally for them, but hey, stranger things have happened. Anyone remember MySpace? On the plus side, all they demand from you is time, so go for it.
Personal blogs and web pages do not suffer from the problem of being at the mercy of the corporates, but can seem daunting. Just be sure to stay away from having your blog hosted by Blogspot or WordPress, because then you have the same problem as with Facebook. The truth is, getting your own, privately hosted website is easier and cheaper than ever before. Pop over to Bluehost for domain registration and hosting (which sets you back around $3.95 a month), install WordPress, and there you go, you’re online.
In the near future, I’ll be detailing how to do just that in an e-book that I intend to make available for cheap.
But when you have a blog, now what?
Well, it’s there, people will stumble across it if you have some good content on there. By providing great content on the blog, you will eventually attract readers. If readers like you, hopefully, they’ll buy your books. It still sounds a bit wonky, but don’t be alarmed, there is a plan here.
Okay, so I need to write great content, on what?
That’s entirely up to you. There’s a great book called Crush it: Why NOW is the Time to Cash in on Your Passion by Gary Vaynerchuk that can help with that. On the plus side, that book also goes into some depth regarding Social Media marketing.
Mostly think of your audience, and what the ones who’d like your book would be interested in. Writing content for a fiction blog can be challenging, but think of that reader, the one who you would love to have your book in front of him, and think what he would want to read. Personally, I feel that I fit into my target audience as well, so I’d like to post things I like, remembering to stick to the topic at hand, which is providing content that would be honey to my bear-readership.
It still sounds like I won’t sell any books
You’re right. The fact of the matter is, social media is cluttered, and so is the internet. Odds are people will not visit your site or page, nor will they buy your book.
That is unless you can keep yourself in the forefronts of their minds. They found your site because they were looking for your content. They love reading books and are willing to spend money to do so. There are 7 billion people in the world who might want to buy your book (except for those poor sods in North Korea). The key is to build a relationship with each of them. If they know you, they’ll buy your books.
Internet Marketing Success
How the heck are you supposed to build a relationship with 7 billion people? Well, one at a time, to be honest. The mechanism to do so is through their e-mail inboxes. With people opting in to be on your e-mail list, you can reach them whenever you want! Direct mail was, and continues to be, a massive draw for advertisers every year. What I propose is to create what those advertisers dream of: A targeted list of people gagging to get a hold of your next product.
Build an e-mail list?
The secret to Internet Marketing Success is building a targeted e-mail list for your writing business. If you can get a list of a thousand people who love you and love your books, you can pretty much just inform them whenever you have a new book available and they will jump on it, thanking you for letting them know. They want your book, and you gave it to them. Win-win.
But why all that other stuff?
Getting a list is not the easiest thing in the world if you start from scratch. That is, if you don’t have platforms available to help you. That’s why Facebook, Twitter, and your blog are important. Through them, you can build a list.
The spider in the middle of your web
The model for this is simple, and I give credit to Steve Scott for sharing this idea. The e-mail list should be the hub of all your endeavors. Imagine all your platforms linking into that hub like spokes of an old-timey wagon wheel. Everything you do must give the reader the option of opting into your e-mail list so that you can tell them about your great new book later.
How do you do that?
First thing you need to do is find an email marketing service provider. You will be dealing with hundreds of e-mail addresses if you are any good and using G-Mail is a bit impractical. I prefer using MailChimp, because it starts out free for the first 2000 subscribers. Their options start costing money after that, but with 2000+ subscribers you’ll be turning a profit. There is an old saying around the internet marketing crowd saying that each subscriber is worth a dollar. It will probably be less, but hey, If your books are good then those 2000 people will be overjoyed to hear that the new one is out and hop right on the handy link to Amazon, Kobo and Barns and Noble you provided.
MailChimp and Aweber has some great tutorials on how to install your opt in boxes onto your website, or even Facebook. No technical skills needed.
Use a lead magnet
Sure, if Stephen King set up a mailing list he would be flooded with subscribers from day one. Us plebeians have a little bit of a harder route. We have to bribe people to subscribe. Offer something of value for free and they will subscribe. Make it worth their while, and they will subscribe. Many things will do. The important thing is the intention to add value to the subscriber as a thank you incentive to be on your e-mailing list. You are a fiction writer, I’m sure you have something of value to offer. What about that first book in a series that you were planning to stick on Amazon for free? Use that! What about a promise of future discounts such as count down sales on book launches? Use that! Why not both? That’s value.
Use a squeeze page
A squeeze page is the page detailing the advantages of being on this mailing list, with a strong call to action for the reader to fill in their name and e-mail into the little boxes and click subscribe. Leadpages have great squeeze pages available as part of their offerings, but it’s a bit pricy. Being professional isn’t cheap. If you’d like a freebie, I’ve discovered some free templates for squeeze pages from Leadpages which I can share with you. It’s on Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income blog, which has a whole lot of great stuff on offer. Find it here.
Use a thank you page
Once your reader has given you her e-mail for the free e-book and great offers, let them go through to a thank you page. On this page, all you do is say thanks for the subscription, and would you like to share this great free thing with your friends who would love the book too? That way, you can get a viral response. One guy stumbles onto your site, loves your content and signs up for the free book. He shares it on his Facebook page and, because everyone loves a freebie that was recommended to them by a friend, more people pop onto your site for the freebie and repeat the cycle. All the while your list grows. Give them value and they will come.
Use your own books
If someone likes your book, naturally they would like more of the same. I’m personally guilty of reading a single book in a series and then buying the author’s entire back catalogue and becoming a catatonic read-bot for a month, lost in that author’s world. (I’m looking at you, Jim Butcher).
Why not help readers like that be informed of your future releases? Odds are he’ll buy the new book when it comes out on a release offer, so put a link to your e-mail list in your book, back and front. While you’re at it, put links to your Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, Match.com, everywhere. Well, maybe not Match. But the point is, make it easy for someone who likes your books to be able to get more of the same. Popular wisdom states that you need a thousand dedicated fans to really take off, this is the way to do it.
No one likes spam
A note of caution: Always apply the Golden Rule. Just because you have access to your reader’s e-mail addresses does not mean you can bombard them with offers, such as too many affiliate offers and junk mail. Yes, some may click the links and buy some stuff, but more will unsubscribe, which will leave them in the dark when the thing they really wanted comes around: your next book.
No one likes spam!
Stay focused, add value, give the audience what they want, and they will give you what you want. Loyal fans and the money that comes with that, so you can be a writer full time.