Over the last few months, I’ve had the privilege of meeting lots of indie authors who are just at the point where they want to start marketing their books.
Their book is written and ready to go, they’ve uploaded it to KDP, and… tumbleweed.
Maybe their mum bought a copy (please don’t get your mum to buy a copy, for reasons I explain here). If they were sensible, they did some word-of-mouth or social media marketing and got more than a few sales.
But after the first week or so, sales dried up.
It happens to us all. It happened to me with my first book. And it still happens if I take my eye off the marketing ball (normally cos I’m too busy doing that inconvenient thing people call writing).
So I’ve decided to start an occasional series aimed at people who are in the same boat I was eighteen months ago. When I started out as an indie author, I had no idea about marketing. I hoovered up resources: podcasts, courses, books, and the advice of any established indie author who’d let me buy them a drink. And I learned loads.
Sifting through all that information, however, can be daunting. There are so many options. What do you focus on? A website, a newsletter, Facebook ads, Instagram? What? And how the heck do you make the time to do all this stuff as well as the (much) more important activity of writing the next book and, y’know, that inconvenient thing called having a life too?
I’m a big believer in focus. On doing one thing at a time, until you know how that thing works and can do it well. This doesn’t mean flogging the dead horse of one marketing method if it doesn’t work for you; sometimes we need to change tack when things don’t succeed. But I believe that if you focus on one thing right now, you’ll do a lot better than if you experiment with everything, and risk overwhelm.
But exactly which thing do you start with? With all the options available to you, which one do you pick?
The answer, as in so many things (sorry!) is: it depends.
It depends on you: your experience, your skillset, your time and what you feel comfortable with. And it depends on your books and the market they’re aimed at.
So I’ve put together an infographic designed to help you identify which thing to try first. Please note that this is just a guide. I showed it to a few established indies and have already got into an argument about what comes first and whether we should dive into marketing when we only have one book. Which just goes to show there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to this.
But this infographic reflects my thinking about the best place to start depending on your situation. Use it as a rough guide, try what it recommends, and if that doesn’t work for you – do something different. I’m not giving you a cast-iron instruction on what to do. But I am trying to make things a little easier.
Here it is. I hope it’s self-explanatory.
In case you can’t read that for any reason (maybe you’re on a shonky internet connection and can’t load images, or you’re using a screen reader), here it is in text form:
- Let’s get started. How many books have you written? If it’s one, go to step 2, if two or more, go to step 3.
- Write the next book. Marketing one book profitably is very hard and writing another one will make you a better writer. While you’re at it, start building a mailing list and setting up a website.
- Have you had your books edited with a quality cover that’s on-genre? If not, fix that before you do any marketing. If yes, proceed.
- Work on your mailing list and website and move on to the next question while you do that.
- Do you write in series? If so, go to step 6. If not, go to step 8.
- Is your first book 99c/99p? If yes, try Bookbub ads. If not, go to step 7.
- Can you write ad copy (or can you learn)? If the answer is yes, try Facebook ads. If not, go to step 8.
- Are you happy analyzing data? If not, try Amazon’s automated keyword ads. If you are happy analyzing data, try the whole range of Amazon ads.
Now you’re probably thinking how the hell do I get started with Bookbub/Facebook/Amazon ads? I’m going to continue this series over the coming weeks and months with some posts pointing you in the direction of some great resources on these topics, and with an overview of how each of these platforms work. I’m by no means an expert on them, but I will point you in the direction of the folks who are.
So to get you started, here are my favorite resources on different aspects of book marketing:
- Mailing lists: Newsletter Ninja by Tammi Labreque.
- Websites: WordPress for Writers by (ahem) me. This is currently on pre-order for half price and will be released on 21 June. If you don’t want to use WordPress, read my free Author Website Blueprint.
- Bookbub ads: Bookbub Ads Expert by David Gaughran.
- Facebook ads: Mark Dawson’s Ads for Authors course. This isn’t cheap but it is the gold standard when it comes to Facebook ads and is kept up to date (unlike the books on the subject). If you don’t have the budget, I recommend Dawson’s taster course on list-building ads with Facebook or David Gaughran’s newsletter series on the subject (sign up to the newsletter then ask him for the link to those emails).
- Amazon Ads: Mastering Amazon Ads by Brian Meeks and the Amazon modules in Mark Dawson’s Ads for Authors course.
You’ll also find some great free resources among Reedsy’s courses on book marketing.
I hope that gives you a starting point and has helped you see the wood for the trees. To make sure you don’t miss out on future updates in this series, join my VIP club. You’ll get a weekly update on writing- and marketing-related topics and a free book, Author Website Blueprint. And I’ll alert you if my books are on sale.