I’m thrilled to welcome indie author and publisher LM Preston to the blog this week as she shares tips based on her hard-won experience marketing her self-published books. With several series already in print and digital formats and more on the way, LM has plenty of street cred. Check it out.
Being an author is a lot more work than many young people realize when they daydream about a writing career. My partner and I started our small press, Phenomenal One Press, in 2009 before self-publishing or indie publishing was all the rage. We decided to approach our publishing business with planned precision to bring awareness to our product within the typical three-year rule for most businesses. In addition I became the Vice President of Mid Atlantic Book Publishers Association, which is an affiliate of the Independent Book Publishers Association, so I could learn more about the industry. Now just three years after its beginning, our small press has six books released by myself and one other author. With hard work and incorporating the expertise of professional editors, proofreaders, and many others we’ve achieved our goal and more.
If you decide to go the self-publishing route, realize that you should take some time to do the following:
KNOW THE PUBLISHING BIZ AND YOUR MARKETS. Take time to read books on the business of publishing. Attend Pub-U sponsored by the Independent Book Publishers Association. Check out a favorite book of mine that helped me kick-start my publishing business, 1001 Ways to Market Your Books by John Kremer. Just don’t rush into this without knowing your target markets, where they hang out, what they like, and where your products fit in.
BUILD A BRAND PRESENCE. If you want to be accepted as a professional publisher, present yourself as one. Review and research other small publishers, even large publishers, for the genres you plan on publishing. Note the ones that stand out and why, then replicate that image for your company. Remember, first impressions are everything. So spend some time creating all the business cards, website branding, press kits, marketing kits, media kits, sales sheets, and anything you plan on giving out to bookstores, readers, schools, and other venues to present your books and yourself. Also note that consumers are visual so try to nail your publishing business’ image on the first try. As far as covers, don’t skimp on them. Research the covers in the genre you want to sell in, then get a book cover artist to design you a professional cover. When I consult with new self-publishers or small presses, I’m brutally honest about the value of a quality cover and publishing brand because they often underestimate that aspect.
CREATE A MARKETING PLAN. Many authors should do this whether they are self-published or not. Make a marketing plan that you direct towards your markets. Also, break up your marketing into daily tasks that take no more than one hour each day. And give yourself a day off. I start with a simple excel spreadsheet that spans the entire eight months prior to publication. The reason you plan promotion so far ahead is because it takes advertising time to build momentum. Have one marketing plan for your ebook release and another for your paperback or audio releases. When you have your plan split out in daily increments, it’s also easy to pass along an item or two to someone else to finish. It helps a self-publisher who is doing all the promo and marketing themselves to avoid overwhelm.
GET SOME REVIEWS. If you have a great cover, a well-edited book, and a great brand, bloggers and reviewers will take a peek. Believe it or not, many self-publishers are able to garner reviews by presenting themselves in a professional manner and offering up a quality product. Learn to set up your own blog tours, gain your own reviewers, and research them to make sure they like what you are sending them. Do not, under any circumstance, send your book (preferably an ARC—Advance Reader Copy) to a reviewer who doesn’t read or enjoy books similar to yours. Taking that chance can get you a bad review: Readers are rather picky and selective with the types of books they read and enjoy, so make sure that your reviewers understand the genre in advance of you spending money to send them your paperback ARC.
FOLLOW UP. Once you build a reader base, keep them in the know. Follow up. Yeah, newsletters help. Friend them on Facebook, Tweet them, but however you do it, communicate with your readers. And just keep adding and adding to your momentum by building an army of supporters who like what you write, cheer you on, and in some cases even market your books for you through word of mouth.
My final note of advice is to stick with the same genre for your first two releases since different genres require building a presence and marketing to multiple audiences. You’ll get more mileage out of your research and work if you can use it for more than one book.
In taking the bull by the horns and launching a publishing business, you are no longer an author, you are a publisher. Therefore, your publishing business should be approached as a business.
LM Preston is co-owner of Phenomenal One Press, Vice President at MBPA, a coordinator for the Maryland Writers’ Conference who recruits Lit Agents and Editors for the annual event, and is a moderator at YAlitchat.org. In addition she has penned over six published novels in Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction. She’s taught at University of Maryland, University College on technical-related studies. Visit her blog at http://lmpreston.blogspot.com.