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Thursday, February 20, 2014

You Gotta Know When to Hold 'Em: Marketing & Advertising for the Indie Author, Part One

By: Heather Day Gilbert

I asked several authors to fill me in on advertising and marketing tips—in other words, share what's worth the money and what isn't. While each author had different experiences, we hope you can take away ideas that light your marketing "fire."

As we all know, indie publishing is FAR from one-size-fits-all (thank goodness!). However, I'm pretty certain all these authors would advise you to only take on as many of these marketing/advertising opportunities as you can handle, both financially and personally.

At the end of this two-part post, I'm going to link to each of the authors who participated. Thank you all so much for sharing some of your hard-earned wisdom with us!

Some authors had no noticeable sales spikes from their book trailers. But the overall recommendation was that if you do a trailer, make sure you share it pre-book release and make sure it's an accurate, yet short trailer. However, the advice was also offered to keep your budget small on trailers, since they're not the focus of your marketing process, just an addition to it.

This was, by far and away, the method most authors recommended to get the word out on your books. This means you need to be established in various forms of social media. Points mentioned in this regard were:

TWEET regularly. You can join tweet exchanges (this was news to me!) where you tweet for others and vice versa. Spammy tweets are not recommended, though, so try to keep your tweets more personal and don't litter the feed with them.

—Determine your twitter AUDIENCE. Heather Sunseri, author of Mindspeak and Mindseige, advises authors to be real, which means sharing tidbits about your life. But she also advises not to stray far from topics that would interest your target audience.

—You can also prepare book release or other tweets and share them with your followers, groups, or launch team. It's easy for them to copy/paste them (I'd recommend hashtagging for more specific notice).

—Line up blog interviews ahead of time. You never know which blogs will drive the most traffic to your book, so the more blogs you visit, the better. I personally had several purchases after appearing on an ABA Medieval site that has thousands of readers, but I also had several people put my novel on their To-Read list after I visited a fellow homeschooling mom's blog. Basically, figure out where your reader demographic congregates and request a guest post, interview, or review slot.

—Lock in book reviews ahead of release time (let early readers read your book). That way, when your book launches, some of the first reviews to hit Amazon and Goodreads will be from your early readers, who've had time to thoroughly review your book. Please realize, those initial Amazon reviews will stay in place as the first ones readers see.

And since a self-publishing launch doesn't have to happen all at once, continue asking review sites to review your book, even months after you launch. The beautiful thing about self-publishing is that we don't have to stop marketing our books—it's the "slow burn" effect, which I'm sure I've mentioned before and will continue to mention!

Facebook was mentioned as a wonderful way to reach readers on a personal level. Initially, I avoided having a FB Author page, but it has been my best source of connecting quickly with my readers.

Email lists/Newsletters are consistently touted as the best way to get the word out to readers who love your writing and will buy your books. MaryLu Tyndall, who's maintained a substantial e-mail list for many years, recommends placing an email signup in multiple locations (blog, FB, etc). MaryLu offers a book giveaway to new subscribers once monthly. She also recommends only sending email updates when you have something newsworthy to update, so you're not inundating your subscribers with unimportant emails.

—If you're comfortable with it, public speaking was mentioned as an effective way to increase your book's reach and sales. Libraries often love to have authors visit and field questions about their books (especially if your book is in their library! Make a point of donating and signing yours to your local library(ies) once you have softcovers.) 

Book clubs and direct contact with your readers were also considered crucial, even if they didn't result in massive sales. The idea of giving back to your community, via signings and public speaking, was a driving factor for many authors. 

—Also, updating your alumni sites and contacting local papers are small but crucial steps to get the word out closer to home.

Next week we'll be talking more specifically about various paid and free ways to advertise.

For this and the second part of this series (March 20) I'll give shout-outs to all my contributing authors. Names below will link to their websites and book titles will link to their latest novels on Amazon:

***If you have any suggestions on advertising/marketing you've found effective, please let us know in the comments! Thank you.***

Heather Day Gilbert enjoys writing stories about authentic, believable marriages. Sixteen years of marriage to her sweet Yankee husband have given her some perspective, as well as ten years spent homeschooling. 

You can find Heather at her website, Heather Day Gilbert--Author, and at her Facebook Author Page, as well as Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Goodreads. Her Viking novel, God's Daughter, is an Amazon bestseller. You can find it on Amazon and Smashwords. She plans to release her contemporary Appalachian mystery, Miranda Warning, on West Virginia Day: June 20, 2014.


  1. As always, very insightful post m'dear!

    1. Thank you, Michelle! I enjoyed all this author input and I'm so glad they shared!

  2. I use a street team - which I call a Dream Team to help me spread the word. They have become good friends, and I reward them for their hard work.

    1. Yes, DiAnn! I think we all call it something different (I call mine early readers), but the purpose is the same--having a group of people read your book early, prepare reviews (if they like it!), and be ready to get the word out upon launch. I need to work on the reward angle--I love the idea of giving your books away, but first you have to have some books out!

  3. Yes, and if you can think of a themed book launch that is interesting, hilarious, fun and rewarding!--along w/plenty of contacts beforehand, that can help your entry into the published world too. Mine (online) was held all day with a scavenger hunt AND small trivia questions about me w/points adding up to some very nice prizes. Had expert help. Not a bad start.

    Thanks for a great post and for the mentioning.

    1. Ah, Carole, I can tell you're the creative type! The main place I get creative is in writing...all other crafty attempts fall flat, I'm afraid. My biggest idea was to launch my book at 12:01 am on the scheduled date--so people could stay up late and buy it (like a movie you wait in line for...). It was super fun and my friends were excited, but I didn't really sell a lot till the next day. Still, they were with me (online) in that moment of celebration! I love that we can each develop techniques that fit our style and will reach our reading demographics. Thanks so much for all your input on this 2-part series!

  4. Good stuff. Especially about the tweeting. I've seen too many authors simply resease a torent of book plugs. And we can never be afraid to experiment. You never know what might be the next "idea I wish I'd had."

    1. It's interesting on tweets, Ron. I know some friends have great success w/scheduled tweets. I'm pretty random in my tweeting, but I built up my twitter list over the past 2 years by a) following lots of people with similar interests, and b) tweeting links to helpful posts/book deals, etc. Not to mention throwing in some personal (yea, even political) stuff (I'm a rule-breaker). I had no clue on the tweet exchanges but that sounded like a brilliant idea to me!

  5. Thanks for posting. I'm intrigued with the concept of a book trailer, but wasn't sure how much time/money/effort to devote. I think I'll approach it as one small piece of the marketing pie. I really appreciated the suggestion about giving new subscribers to one's newsletter an opportunity to win something once a month. Brilliant suggestion. Thanks again!

    1. Glad that helped, Heidi--I know, I learned a lot from these authors while doing these posts! I just started up my own newsletter--it was the one thing I'd continued to put off. But EVERYthing I've read online, in almost every circle, stresses the importance of that go-to email list of readers invested in your books.

      One other thing the indies I know stress--don't just shuttle your email addresses into the list. Make sure it's clear readers are signing up for it, no gimmicks to get them on there. And don't send out an abundance of non-important emails. These are some things I'm learning and I think they're great advice. I know MailChimp, which I'm using, draws a hard line on spam mail. Yet you do have to send out a certain number of emails per year (not sure how many). Just a few things to keep in mind! Hope this helps! We'll all learn together!

    2. Heather, it's interesting that pretty much everything I've read stresses the importance of email newsletters for creating connection. Isn't that really the purpose of what we're doing? Desiring to connect with readers so they will recommend our work.

      But I still find many successful authors do very little re: email, rather use FB (in particular) to create and enhance their connection with readers.

      My challenge with a newsletter is having some interesting content to include it. I'll sign up to your newsletter.

    3. Ian, I hear ya. I felt the same way, like WHAT can I bring to readers in a newsletter (esp since I'm a genre-hopper!)? I have heard some great ideas in that regard--from recipes, to giveaways of previous books, to sharing sneak peeks at cover art (my plan!).

      I always enjoy your Bible verses and thoughts on your FB author page...perhaps you could include those sorts of things in your newsletter. I think the nice thing about newsletters is that they don't have to go out often (maybe 4x a year, roughly? Not sure the MailChimp specifications). Most authors I know say to make SURE your content is important enough to warrant an email--so upcoming book news would be crucial. I know I'd LOVE to get sneak peeks and info on my fave author's upcoming books and giveaways.

      Definitely not something I'd been on-board with, but I'm starting to see how it is a great way to contact readers who are PERSONALLY INTERESTED in your books.

      All the best to you, Ian, and thanks for signing up!


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