Self-Publish 8: Marketing
I need to make it clear to whomever reads this article that I’m not a university student of literature, nor a lecturer. I don’t even class myself as an author. I say I’m a raconteur who can write logically. But during my study for a first degree, I took a unit called English 10, which I passed. So I enrolled in English 20 for the following year. The focus was on Shakespeare and it took me about three weeks to decide it wasn’t for me. My study continued and I achieved a Ph.D, but in an area far removed from literature. So my formal literature background is limited. in reading this, therefore, please view me as someone who’s gone from writing formal research reports to creating fictional novels via a process of orally stories. These articles hopefully explain some intricacies of self-publishing and outline why I went that way, how, what happened and to share such information with anyone who’s interested. I’m not setting out to be an expert in writing fiction or in self-publishing, by the way. I’m just telling my story in language as simple I can muster.
I define the term ‘marketing’ as finding ways to deliver messages to specific target markets about what you’re doing, why and finding out if those markets are interested in your product. I define it that way to make sure ‘marketing’ isn’t confused with ‘selling’. For me, they are distinctly different: the former is defining and creating relationships with target groups, while the latter is transacting with individuals or groups indicating interest in purchasing something.
With that defined, let’s focus on the things I suggest are marketing essentials and then what I define as tools.
I found these three ideas were crucial. When I started out, I had no concept of a target audience. Using a colleague to assist in planning and researching different ideas on the net about marketing novels led me to prioritizing in the following way:
- Define your target audience. Who will your novel or story most appeal to? To start, think in terms of age and gender, knowing that the majority of readers are women
- Develop a plan that will allow you to focus on “spreading your message” to your target audience. And keep your plan simple. If you follow the idea of defining a target audience as a starting point, the focus of the plan will be on what to do, how do to it, by when and what the outcome will be
- Develop a story as a news release to promote what you’re doing and have it ready to send. It needs to be concise and articulate the main idea or ideas you are trying to convey. For example, my releases will always mention the focus in my novels on Aboriginal people and what I’ve found to be so lovely about their culture: the wit, wisdom and compassion which is so often not known, misunderstood or ignored.
These strategies are not necessarily in any order. They are more a menu of categories and ideas from which selections can be made, along with ideas you can collect from the net or from other self-publishing. And there are many excellent articles and sources of information to guide you.
- Create an Article that sells you and the story. Make it brief but ensure it links your background to a short synopsis of the story you’ve written. The need is, however, to be concise
- Try Traditional Media outlets: publicising your article through newspapers, radio and television. And don’t limit your thoughts to “the mainstream”. Community newspapers are excellent, widely read, and always looking for local stories, while there are a plethora of radio stations outside of major FM and AM stations. My reason for stating the last point is because I’ve found “major” stations are very difficult to communicate with at the best of times, and the vast majority do not respond. I began by forwarding copies of the novel to stations, but soon learned not to do that unless someone got back and wanted to chat. I’m still trying to erase the number I forwarded without receiving any acknowledgement from my memory. For example, 20 contacts for my first novel received a response for Curtin FM and an interview. The odds aren’t good. It also depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If your goal is widespread readership, then perhaps there is an advantage in having a supply of novels to give away. If you goal is to make money, then a consideration will be when the benefit of the marketing exercise in reaching people is costing money rather than making it.
- Social Media: includes any form you want to try, but I suggest starting with Facebook and a website. Both are sources for individuals, companies, the media and various outlets you may want to try. One value of these is allowing for people to purchase direct from you so make sure your website has the capacity for a customer to contact you direct, or else carries your email address (or both). In addition, make it clear that unless people collect the novels they purchase, postage will be included in the price. Check out the costs with Australia Post and think carefully about the form and weight of the novel you produce.
- Approach Outlets: This strategy needs careful consideration. I say that for several reasons. If your aim is to have your novel widely read, then it’s worthwhile to approach many different outlets. Just consider these thoughts before you do. The first is that bookshops are overpowering places. There are so many books from so many authors, I always felt mine were lost in the clutter. The second is that bookshops will charge 40 per cent of the sale price as commission. Most take novels on “consignment” rather than purchasing and therefore commission is their profit. But as I’ve said earlier, I found with my first novel I was making virtually nothing on sales through this strategy. And finally, established publishers seem have right of way, as they also have with daily newspapers. It might seem unfair but it’s just a fact that going with self-publishing entails. If large bookshops don’t appeal, consider independent bookshops. I have two I consistently use that have had reasonable sales, as well as a couple of grocery outlets that are happy to keep a few of each novel in stock. So overall, my sense is that non-mainstream is the way to go.
- Giveaways: these include items like bookmarks, business cards and fridge magnets. They are simple and inexpensive but are good or advertising. For example, when forwarding to a purchaser, or handing over a novel that’s been purchased at a presentation, I make sure each novel has two bookmarks, one from each of my other two novels, and a fridge magnet.
There may be more ideas that come to mind and I’ll add them as they do, so check back here occasionally and have a peek.