Today’s post will address this question, submitted by Linnea Valle (thanks, Linnea!):
“What would you recommend a first time indie author do to promote their book prior to publication to get their name out there and try to create some buzz?”
Great question. Building buzz for a new author is tough and takes WORK. The market is crowded and always changing, breaking out is harder than ever, and there is no magic bullet. What worked two years ago would not work today. But there are things you can do to give yourself the best possible chance for success. Below are tips from me and some author friends on how to do it!
First, I’m going to ask you to stop thinking about building buzz and start thinking about building relationships–with readers, bloggers, authors. These are the people who will help you get the word out about your book, but they have A LOT of choices when it comes to which authors to pimp. It’s more likely to be you if you’ve put in the time and effort to make connections. How do you do it?
(Note: I am going to focus on Facebook because I have learned that’s where my readers hang out, and I am comfortable there. Other authors might make better use of other platforms, but Facebook works for me.)
1) START EARLY
“Prior to publication” is key–you want to start thinking about this BEFORE you release your book. My friend and fellow author Kayti McGee suggests 6 months out. You might still be writing or editing the book, but that’s fine.
2) MAKE NICE
Be active on blog Facebook pages and in groups (often run by bloggers) where readers talk about the kind of books you write. Be sure to follow their rules!
“Be active” does NOT mean pimp yourself or your book. (That’s spammy and no one likes it.) It means commenting on things, supporting other authors, asking for book recommendations, playing games, participating in parties and takeovers, getting a feel for the kinds of posts that generate a lot of interest and getting to know people.
You don’t have to hide the fact that you’re releasing a book, but don’t actively promote it. When you’re ready to release, check the group RULES for author promo, message the admin that you love the group and wondered if you could post a giveaway (an ARC, an ebook, a gift card) along with a teaser and your purchase links (if it’s live).
Stay positive!! Do not post any negative comments or engage with negative people. Support other authors and be fun.
Advice from the pros:
Corinne Michaels: “Comment on bloggers’ posts. Let them recognize your name so when you do a blitz they recognize you as a fan of them.” (They’ll be more likely to sign up for your reveals/tours if they know you. They’ve got A LOT of choices and limited space!)
Mandi Beck: “Get yourself involved. Make friends with readers and bloggers alike. It’s important to stay relevant with so many choices the people who stay active are remembered more, I think.”
…with established authors you love (but don’t ask them to read your book unless you have a close relationship already). Like their pages. Join their fan groups. Interact. See what they’re doing to engage their readers. Again, do not pimp yourself or your book in those groups. You’re there to learn and make connections, not a sale. Later, when that author sees that you’re releasing a book, she/he will be more likely to post your links or a teaser or even do a giveaway for you if you’re an active, supportive fan.
…with authors who are also just starting out. THESE ARE YOUR PEOPLE. You can learn from each other, support each other, encourage each other. Find a group and join them or start your own with a few friends. My closest author friends and critique partners (Laurelin Paige, Kayti McGee, Sierra Simone) are women I “met” in a Facebook writer group in 2011.
…with bloggers big and small. I’ll talk more about using blogs for official things like cover reveals and tours below, but what’s really nice is personally reaching out to bloggers you love and respect. When you’re ready to release, check their blogs for instructions on how to request a review, and make your email or message personal and polite. Mention that you’re a follower of the blog/member of their group–and since you’ve put in the work to be active in those places, hopefully they remember you!
Also, many big blogs do NOT sign up for things. Your best bet there is to reach out personally. Like this…
“Hi (use their name), I’m a new author and big fan of your blog. My debut romance, FRENCHED (a sexy contemporary standalone), releases March 17th. I’d be so grateful if you could include it on your list of new releases for that week. Here is the Goodreads link: LINK HERE. I’d also be happy to provide a review copy if you are interested, but I know you’re swamped. Thank you so much!”
Some more advice from the pros:
Corinne Michaels: “I think everyone wants those coveted blogs, but having 30 smaller blogs pimping you constantly is just as good if not better than one big blog posting once.”
K. Bromberg: “Don’t BLANKET email bloggers. Make each email personal somehow so they know you’ve seen their blog page before. Use their name. Show that you know who they are, not just another email address you’ve collected to spam.”
Kyla Linde: “Do a lot of market research and find an author group of peers going through the same thing that you trust. Other authors are your biggest advocates. We’re friends not competitors. And be genuine. People know when you’re trying to use them.”
OK, now for the buzzy stuff!
4) COVER AND BLURB ARE CRITICAL
If your cover and blurb aren’t buzz-worthy, you’re finished before you even start. (Go here for some advice.)
Lauren Blakely: “If your blurb sucks, none of this matters. Study your favorite blurbs and learn what they do well and do that for your book.”
5) PUT YOUR BOOK ON GOODREADS.
6) POST TEASERS
Good graphics are critical. Post them on all your social media accounts with a link to Goodreads so they can add it to their Want To Read list. Make sure your graphics are true to your book and your brand. (Advice on branding here.) If you’re not amazing at graphic design, invest in one or two fabulous graphics from a pro. It’s worth it.
Corinne Michaels: “Teasers matter! Your brand matters! Don’t skip on your cover or teasers.”
K. Bromberg: “Good graphics. Graphics are awesome these days so you need to make sure that your graphics are on par.”
Claire Contreras: “Kristy’s advice about graphics is brilliant, because those build buzz.”
7) GIVE AWAY A LOT OF BOOKS. LIKE, A LOT, A LOT.
I know this sounds counterintuitive, but trust me. Give away tons of ARCs to people who will read and review. You can reach out yourself to bloggers (see advice above) and readers (“Hey everyone! I’m putting together an ARC team for MY HOT SEXY BOOK! Who’s up for reading and reviewing?”) or you can hire a promo company to do a release blitz or review tour for you and they will get the ARCs out to everyone.
When I say “a lot,” I mean A LOT. I gave away over 100 ARCs of SOME SORT OF LOVE to readers, and probably another 100 to bloggers. That was on the advice of Laurelin Paige, and it was exactly right.
Lauren Blakely: “Work your ass off to build grassroots success by getting arcs to blogs and readers and writers.”
8) BE VISIBLE BY…
Creating an Author Page (a “Likes” page).
Don’t worry about getting a bunch of likes right away. DO NOT–I REPEAT–DO NOT MESSAGE PEOPLE ASKING THEM TO LIKE YOU BECAUSE YOU LIKED THEM. This is spammy and annoying and no one likes it. Likes will come later. But at least if people go looking for you, this page is ready and waiting!
Posting something to it once a day–a teaser, a meme, a game, a question, a link to a book you love or a great review you wrote. Once you get some likes, you can post giveaways for gift cards or new releases you loved (if you have some money in the publicity budget for this). To enter the giveaway, ask them to like your page and tag a friend. I have found that gift card giveaways work best–even $5 gift cards get lots of attention! Mostly you will feel like you’re yelling into the abyss, but that’s OK. We all start there.
Using your regular profile page (your “friends” page) to post things about your writing life. Search #amwriting to get a feel for the kind of posts authors use. Anything goes, really–what’s inspiring you, author quotes you love, what you’re struggling with…just little behind-the-scenes glimpses that clue people in you’re writing a book. Tag your peer group writers in fun posts–interact and support each other!
Creating a reader group for yourself. I didn’t do this until I had published 3 books, but I wish I had done it sooner! Don’t worry if it’s just you and a few friends to start. You’ll grow!
Mandi Beck: “I started a group before I released. It gave me a chance to interact more, share ideas and teasers. It may have only been my friends at first but gradually I added people and was able to put the link in the back of the book.”
9) HIRE A PROFESSIONAL
If you can afford it, hire an experienced book promotions company to schedule a cover reveal, release blitz, and/or review tour for you (if you have a limited budget, go for the review tour).
You can do lots of fun things with your cover reveal–teasers, excerpts, a Rafflecopter giveaway (to enter, be sure to have them add your book on Goodreads and like your author page).
A release blitz will get bloggers posting your cover and buy links on release day, and a review tour (I start these about a week after release) will get you reviews and blog posts. Win/win!
Yes, this costs money but you’re investing in your career, building relationships with people that will serve you long-term. These companies are run by pros who can get you onto blogs you might not be able to get onto on your own.
10) THE BOOK MATTERS MOST
NONE of this matters if your book is not the best possible book you can put out.
Lauren Blakely sums it up: “Write the very best book you can. Edit it relentlessly. Proof it ’til your eyes cross. At the end of the day, the magic is in the book.”