Writer Promotion: Having a Plan

Blog 90 ImageThis is the last post in my blog series on How to Self-Publish. In previous posts, I described ways a self-pub can promote her book. But rather than dipping into every strategy and seeing which, if any, sticks, a writer will find it useful to have a promotional plan.

There are several reasons for this. First, there are many other writers promoting their books and, for the most part, in very similar ways. A well-thought-out plan that builds interest in an upcoming book gives a writer a better chance of finding an edge. Second, many self-pubs write while holding down day jobs. Their time for promotion is limited and a plan can make them more efficient. Finally, a plan can keep marketing costs under control. It’s already a challenge for self-pubs to cover editorial and cover design costs, let alone clear a profit. And when it comes to promotion, it’s tempting to chase the dream of success and continue spending. A plan with a budget lowers this risk.

Here are some things writers should think about when developing a plan.

When to work up the plan. It’s easy to leave the development of a promotional plan until a book is done. However, many strategies such as building a social media presence require time to build followers. A writer should create and start implementing a plan once she’s certain she’s going to self-publish.

Consider what the market is. A lot of promotion involves a writer sharing content about her books and/or herself. As she develops that content, a writer should consider the profile of her potential market. Few self-pubs have the resources to do things like market surveys. However, a writer might be able to research sales of well-known books in her genre.

Types of promotion. The goal of a promotional plan is to build interest in an upcoming book that peaks when the book is published and is maintained for months and even years after. The core of the plan settles the strategies that will be used to achieve this goal. Since many writers use the same strategies and lives are busy, at any stage of implementing the plan, it’s probably best to do one or two things really well.

Timing of the strategies. Some strategies, like social media, are long-term or even ongoing. Others, like asking friends and family for help or contacting bloggers for reviews, are usually implemented in the months before publication. A promotional plan should create dates for executing all strategies to maximum effect.

Costs. A writer’s plan should also create an overall budget for promotion broken down by strategy. As I already said, the dream of success creates a temptation to spend, spend, spend, and many service providers look to take advantage of that.

Measure results. Finally, a plan should include times when the writer assesses her promotional strategies. For example, she might review social media analytics to see which content has generated the most interest. A writer will never be a hundred percent certain which strategies are working and which aren’t, but there’ll be enough information to tweak the plan and make adjustments.

Copyright © 2016 Peter Fritze

Buy False Guilt.

Buy The Case for Killing.

Follow me on Twitter @PFritze.

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Writer Promotion: Spending the Marketing Budget

Blog 89 ImageI have two posts left under How to Self-Publish about promotion. This week I look at fee-based services and next week I’ll discuss having a promotional strategy.

To date, my posts about promotion have largely focused on approaches involving little or no cost, such as invoking the help of family and friends, having a website and blogging and using social media. My last post on reviews did touch on two services that cost money: email blasts promoting price discounts and paid-for reviews. This post picks up on that thread and looks at a few more promotional services self-pubs can buy.

Most people trying to sell a new product or service think about marketing it with a dedicated budget. Self-pub writers, though, are more likely to i) think their books will sell themselves, ii) then realize that they must promote their books, and iii) grudgingly become willing to spend a few bucks on that promotion.

Unfortunately, having arrived at iii), self-pubs will find that spending money on promotion often doesn’t cure poor sales. There simply are too many books published. In addition, it can be hard to know which promotional/marketing/consulting service affected sales. All I can say is that self-pubs should be skeptical about what’s on offer, understand exactly what the value proposition is and ask other writers about their experiences. With all that, here are some ways to eat up the marketing budget.

Facebook Advertising: This social media behemoth makes money, among other things, from selling targeted advertising using the staggering data it has collected about users. Self-pubs could, for example, advertise their books to users in Ontario who like specified authors. When I researched this type of advertising, though, I couldn’t find any evidence that it produced meaningful sales.

Tweets: Of course, self-pubs can promote their own books on a cost-free basis through their Twitter accounts. “Buy my book” tweets irritate readers, though, so tweets that are more subtle and engaging are best. However, services exist that have built up large numbers of Twitter followers and that, for a fee, will blast their followers with book recommendations. Just as irritating if you ask me.

Giveaways/Contests: Self-pubs can arrange to give away copies of their books on sites like Goodreads as well as have giveaways and contests through Facebook. The idea is to create profile and the possibility of reviews to generate sales. Self-pubs shouldn’t underestimate the costs of getting print copies of books made and delivered to interested readers, or of sending twenty-five tote bags to their contest winners.

Blog Tours: In theory, a self-pub could try to organize a traditional book tour for his new book. However, even assuming book stores would agree to host the writer, the costs could be significant. An alternative is blog tours, in which a self-pub searches out a series of blog writers who agree to host content like a Q&A, a video, a blog post and so on. These tours take a lot of organization, so some services set up the tours for a fee. While I haven’t tried a blog tour, I know writers who have and thought they obtained good exposure. As usual, it would be useful to know if the exposure translates into sales.

Old-School Advertising: A self-pub writer could buy a radio ad or a poster spot on the subway or have his book featured in a movie. A really famous writer with lots of money at least.

PR: When I published The Case for Killing, I thought of hiring a public relations firm. I couldn’t find any affordable, experienced firms.

Copyright © 2016 Peter Fritze

Buy False Guilt.

Buy The Case for Killing.

Follow me on Twitter @PFritze.

Visit me on Facebook.

Writer Promotion: Reviews

Blog 88 ImageI’ve been posting about how self-published writers can promote their books. In my first post, I said, “Readers will buy a self-published writer’s book if they believe they’ll be entertained or get some other benefit. This means they have to know about the book and likely what other readers think of it.”

User-generated reviews offer some of the best promotion of a self-published writer’s book. As with any product or service, if a book’s reviews are independent and overall positive, there’s a chance potential buyers’ eyes will be caught.

Traditional publishers have long supplied copies of books to periodicals for reviews. However, periodicals generally don’t review self-published books. So what can self-pubs do to get reviews?

Write a Good Book. It always seems to come back to this. If readers like a book, some will be encouraged to rate and review it. This in turn builds an average rating and collection of reviews on sites like Amazon and Goodreads which other readers use in their purchase decisions.

Ask for Objective Reviews. There’s nothing wrong with a self-pub asking readers to review his book. So, in situations where the writer is selling or giving away copies of his book in person, he should add that any review would be appreciated. Some self-pub writers also include a review request at the back of their books. Because reviews can be so helpful, writers may be tempted to ask people he knows to read and review the book. It’s essential that the writer be clear that he expects objective reviews.

As long as they are unbiased, people whom a writer could ask to review his book include friends and acquaintances, beta readers, blurb writers and Amazon’s Top Reviewers/Hall of Fame Reviewers. Also, there are many bloggers who review copies of books given to them, but my experience is that it’s very difficult for a writer to have his book selected.

Reduce the Book Price. A writer can reduce the price of his book to encourage sales and hopefully reviews. Kindle Select allows books to be given away or sold at a discount if certain conditions are met.

A vast array of services has developed around publicizing the giveaways and discounts. Given the large number of self-pub books, services charging money should be viewed with scepticism. One service I’ve heard positive anecdotes about is Bookbub. It charges writers to promote price reductions of well-reviewed books to a database of email subscribers. The charges are significant and vary according to genre, so writers must assess whether they’ll be justified by increased sales.

Purchase a Review. Various organizations provide professional reviews for a fee. I’ve blogged about Kirkus Reviews here and other services here (and there are still more).

As long as the reviews are objective, I don’t see any issue with purchasing these services. But as with buying any promotional service, the question is what value the writer gets. I found validation in reviews I purchased for The Case for Killing (here) and False Guilt (here and here), which for me was important. However, my reviews compete with thousands of others and I’m unclear whether they had a material impact on sales of my books.

Lastly, believe it or not, there are “services” that will guarantee five-star reviews. Avoid.

Copyright © 2016 Peter Fritze

Buy False Guilt.

Buy The Case for Killing.

Follow me on Twitter @PFritze.

Visit me on Facebook.