Self-Publishing Secrets Revealed – Five Free Ways to Expose Your
self Books to Readers
Over the past year I’ve had the privilege of speaking at writing events all over my little corner of the world. I’ve given a weekend workshop at a writers retreat in Smithers, in Northern British Columbia, I opened the prestigious Whistler Writers Festival, and I’ve made multiple stops in between. By the end of the year I’ll have spent time at fourteen different events. It’s been a phenomenal experience and I’ll share a number of my findings with you over the coming weeks. The major takeaway from all these events is that there are some phenomenal writers out there working on some extremely interesting projects. I’m a tough sell. For me to enjoy a work it needs to stretch beyond the usual tried and true stories. And, the writing has to engage me in a unique way or I’m moving on. Over and over again as I read different book descriptions I found myself thinking, “Why didn’t I think of that?” or “I want to read that book when it’s released”. If I shared with you some of the ideas that authors are working on it would feel as though I’ve betrayed a confidence, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Some great books will soon be coming your way.
When I teach self-publishing workshops I have the group participate in an exercise where we try to find new methods of connecting with readers. Instead of submitting to BookBub or organizing a Goodreads giveaway we try to think outside the box. I encourage you to try this brainstorming activity among your own group of author friends. You may be surprised by the results. Again, I don’t want to divulge any of the enterprising ideas that have come from my workshops, but I will share with you some of the methods I’ve used that have worked.
1. Blogtalk Radio Appearances
I love podcasts. You can sit in your office or your home and speak to interviewers who ask questions about you and your work. I’ve been fortunate enough to appear on some great shows. Pam Stack, Ann White, and Cyrus Webb have all been gracious enough to interview me. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/ may be looking for you. Remember, when you approach a potential interviewer, the fact that you’ve written a book isn’t enough. They need to be able to sell your story to their listeners. Develop a mini-hero’s-journey type story detailing how you came to publish or write your work, and submit a polite query to a host or a show that you think might be interested in you.
Each time I’ve appeared on a podcast I’ve seen a spike in sales of my books, but more importantly I’ve always connected with new readers who have never heard of me. And, those readers usually stick with me and ask to be alerted when I release a new book.
2. Book Signings
If you have a print book, even if it is self-published book, retail stores may be interested in your book. Once my e-books were selling I produced print copies through CreateSpace. Then, I approached a local independent bookstore and asked if they’d be interested in stocking my books. They agreed and even invited me to have a book signing in their store. So, one Sunday, my significant other stood at their doorway with a large plate of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies and enticed customers inside. The store sold a lot of books that day, some were mine and some were not. Everyone was pleased.
From there, I posted a picture on Facebook of my book on their shelves. A friend of a friend who manages a large supermarket saw my post and ordered some books for his store. He’d heard that I’d published but actually seeing it on a shelf for sale made it real to him. When my books began selling in his store other store managers also ordered my books for their inventories.
This of course has helped me sell print books, but it has also helped me gain readers and reviews. I have my contact information at the back of my books and many of the folks who purchased my print books have asked to be alerted when I have a new release. And, they’ve posted reviews too.
I first wrote about advertising our books on Craigslist in 2011. Others have tried since then with varying degrees of success. When I ran the initial promotions for my first book I promoted the sale on Craigslist sites all over the world. The ads are free so the only cost was my time. My debut novel is set in Scotland and Canada, so I started there. Then, I posted on sites in major cities in the US. And, I kept going from there until I was worldwide. It was difficult to tell whether I truly saw any sales from those ads because they ran while I was advertising elsewhere. So, I tried a Craigslist only ad with no other promotions. This did not result in any additional sales.
I took a break from Craigslist but then re-visited it again last Christmas. I posted on local sites suggesting that a personally signed copy of one of my print books might make a unique Christmas gift for the reader in your family. In the ad I posted a picture of my books under a Christmas tree.
This worked. Several folks contacted me and bought copies of my books. Some of them purchased multiple copies. And, when I met with them to sign the books I stressed that as a new, local author I’d be interested in their input once the books had been read, and if it wasn’t too much trouble perhaps they’d be kind enough to post a review.
KS Brooks put together a group of authors who donated books to libraries whose stock had been depleted due to a hurricane. I was happy to participate. So, I mailed out, directly from CreateSpace, a few books. Then, I sent out a few more. The library was kind enough to send me a letter thanking me.
I didn’t want to keep the exciting information about my benevolence to myself so I shared it. I put together a very simple press release and sent it out to some local newspapers citing the library’s letter in the release. The smallest of all the newspapers responded and interviewed me. That story was picked up by small newspapers all over the province. This exposure resulted in a three day period where my e-book sales spiked.
5. Public Speaking
I know, not everyone likes doing it, but it can be an effective way of getting your name out there. In the course of spreading the word about my self-publishing workshops I speak to a number of different writers groups. I deliver presentations of varying lengths depending on how much time they allow me. I speak about my self-publishing journey and a little about my books. These are writers so they’re interested in the process more than the content.
Each time I’ve given a talk I’ve connected with readers. Some of the writers in attendance purchase a print book, and sometimes they order an e-book. Although I’m there to talk about self-publishing, writers are readers too, and inevitably we talk about my work. And, that’s what I’d rather be discussing of course. Some of those writers have become interested in my novels, and have passed my name and books along to their own followers.
None of the above methods took me to the upper echelons of Amazon’s rankings but they all had a real grassroots feel to them and allowed me to reach readers. And, they gave me some important data – the reader’s information. When we sell a gazillion thousand books from a BookBub ad we don’t know who is buying our books unless they contact us. With the five methods outlined above it opened a door and helped me communicate directly with my readers. Sometimes we progress with small steps, sometimes with large steps. As long as we’re moving forward we’re going in the right direction. I’ll share more of my workshop adventures in the coming weeks. Please subscribe to this blog if you’d like to be alerted when I post. And, don’t forget my self-publishing guidebook was recently updated and may help with your self-publishing journey. Thanks for reading this!