Self-Promotion for Indie Authors: Spam Not Included

So, you wrote a book and it’s out in the world now. You don’t have a Big 5 powerhouse shelling out thousands of dollars to market it, and so, in addition to your classy Author hat, you must wear many others; the ink-stained chapeau of the publisher, the bedazzled manic pixie dream bowler of the public personality, and finally, the logo-emblazoned baseball cap of the promoter.

Shoving your own work in front of people’s faces is hard.

I am no marketing professional, but I have some tips from experience, both as a book promoter and a consumer. Here they are.

  1. Sign Up For Everything. Ideally, you want to exist on Amazon, Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat, Bookbub, and anything else you can think of ALL WITH THE SAME USERNAME. Try to check them every day and cross-promote them occasionally. Of course, you also need a website and ideally a blog, which you should post on once a week or so. (Do as I say, not as I do, damn it.)
  2. Connect With People Who Want Your Book. Sorry, but having 50k Twitter followers doesn’t help you if they’re all promotion accounts that only followed you back to up their own follower count. No human on the other end will ever even look at your tweets. You won’t sell books that way; you’ll just look less reputable to anyone who investigates your profile out of genuine interest. Instead, go out and find real people who might be genuinely interested in you. Look for people who like your genre, your personal interests, etc.. Make some new friends.
  3. Spend Your Ad Money Wisely. Some online ads are just a waste. Facebook, for example, doesn’t seem to sell books. Twitter might get a few hits. Goodreads ads are cheaper than dirt, so they might be a good investment if you’re just spending an exploratory $20. Most services that offer “book promotions to thousands of viewers!” are exactly the kind of advertising ouroboros that will do you no good. Bookbub, on the other hand, does actually have a large audience, but it’s not cheap. Ask around to see what various platforms have been like for other authors in your genre.
  4. Nobody Wants Your Spam. You have to advertise, but you don’t have to be obnoxious. Don’t #hashtag #everything #you #do, because while people might check the #SciFi hashtag and see your book (good), nobody checks the #book or #freebook tags. I can prove it; go look at those hashtags on Twitter under the Latest tab. No likes. No comments. Just spam into the void. Likewise, nobody ever sees “#Free #mustread #musthave #western #amreading #amwriting (insert sale link here)” and says to themselves, “Hm, this seems reputable and interesting, I think I’ll buy it.” As a final note, post more than just book links. People lose interest if all you do in advertise to them. I personally set a max of one link, per book, per day, per platform. Don’t forget to tell them what your book is about.
  5. Create Merch And Freebies That People Will Actually Want. Business cards are good, and you should have them, but they are not merch. Even if they’re shaped like a bookmark. You want stuff that people will wear, use, and keep around. Unless you are a band or a beer, nobody wants to wear your name on their shirt or carry it around on their keychain. Cute character art, beautiful cover art, funny quotes, or reading-themed items are much more likely to appeal and persist. See the squeezable hippos for Sarah Gailey’s River of Teeth, the straight-from-the-books stuff from the Discworld Emporium, or even my own “I See Faeries” buttons. Relevant, memorable, and fun, without making anyone feel like a walking billboard. Good times.

I hope this helps, for those of you trying to get the word out about your books without falling into egomaniacal spammer promotional hell. If you have any additional tips, please leave them in the comments.

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