May is How To Sell Self-Published Books Month here on Catherine, Caffeinated. Last week I poured a bucket of ice-cold water over your dreams in Read This First (which, thanks to Freshly Pressed, is the most popular post ever on this blog with 12,000 views and counting), and then explained why I think you should go guns blazing for the launch of each book instead of waiting until you’ve a few to sell in One at a Time. This week I’ll be presenting my Not So Scientific Theory of How Self-Publishers Can Use Social Media to Get Amazon to Sell Their Books, which is based on how I think I managed to sell my own books over the last couple of years.
You can catch up on the introduction here but today we’re going to talk about Step 2: Find first readers (presuming that Step 1—signing up for preferably a Word Press blog, a Twitter account and a Facebook fan page—is something you can manage yourself and have already done)…
Now, not every self-publisher needs an online presence to sell books. I can name two or three who merely uploaded their book to Amazon and—ta-daa!—bestseller status and a five-digit royalty cheque was theirs without so much as a single tweet, blog post or Facebook status update. (“How nice for them,” she says, through gritted teeth.) But of all the self-publishers I know and know of who have managed to get their books selling and kept them that way, the vast majority have a home—or five—online. Since we’ve already acknowledged that we’re not going to be the next Amanda Hocking, we’re going to do what seems to be an effective strategy for most self-publishers, and leave waiting for the Magical Self-Publishing Fairies to sprinkle our book with pixie dust for another day.
Wait a Sec—Do You Want to Do This?
Not every self-publisher needs an online presence to sell books, but every self-publisher with an online presence should actually want an online presence, and should genuinely enjoy doing all the things that comes with having a blog, tweeting, etc. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Pretend for a second that you know someone who makes a living giving motivational speeches. He self-publishes a book, and it goes straight to the top of the bestseller list. You ask him how he did it, and he puts it all down to the speeches. He says he mentions the book during them and sells copies afterwards, and that the people who buy them there write reviews and tell their friends, and he’s sure that’s what’s driving his sales. You’re about to self-publish a book of your own and, hey, these motivational speeches worked for him, so you decide that you’re going to do it too. Except that you hate public speaking. The thought of standing up in front of a room full of people makes you break out in a cold, clammy sweat. But you can overcome it. Is has to be done, right? Because giving speeches helps sell books. So you decide to grin and bear it. But there’s another problem: you don’t know what to say. You fear you might have nothing to say. And the only motivation you feel is the urge not to do anything except sleep and watch TV. But speeches sell books, and you have books to sell. So you get up in front of a room of several hundred people, sweat profusely, mumble and ultimately go down like a lead balloon. So yes, speeches sell books—but will yours if you don’t actually want to do them?
Don’t do this just because someone said you should. My advice is for writers who want to be bloggers and just need a little advice on what to do once they’ve become one.
Create the Blog You Want to Read
We all know that piece of writing advice write the book you want to read. Well, I say create the blog you want to read. When I first started blogging back in autumn 2009, I had no idea what I was doing—but I knew why I was doing it, and that was just because someone had said I should. I’d just decided to self-publish in a few months’ time, and I figured I’d need a blog in order to do it well. But I didn’t know what to blog about, and my blog was on Blogger.com, dull and—nooooooooo!—featured mismatched, blinking widgets. I know: for SHAME. But after researching self-publishing online, I realized there was a gaping hole in the blogging world, and it was shaped like a self-publisher who didn’t use words like gatekeepers, didn’t keep voodoo dolls named after agents and editors and didn’t believe that one person with no knowledge of the publishing world could do better than an office building full of people with degrees in it.
(That would be me, if it wasn’t clear!)
What I’m saying is: keep it simple. There are so many people out there selling workshops and seminars and training manuals and audio tapes and books about how to blog, when to blog, what to blog, etc. (I just googled “how to blog” and got approximately 6,190,000,000 results) but don’t worry about all that. Instead just imagine the blog you’d love to read every morning with a hot cup of coffee, and then create that blog. Simples.
But What About My Book?
It was easy for me to start talking about my book on my blog, since the whole point of my blog was to chronicle my adventures in self-publishing. But then I know other self-publishers who have tried to do the same thing, and it didn’t work for them. So why did it work for me? I think it’s because I gave the blog reader something that they could use to help themselves, which in my case was straightforward, occasionally (!) helpful advice or information that sometimes generated a giggle. I think most people are on the internet to find one or more of the following things: information, connection and entertainment. When you create content, be it a blog post, a tweet or a book trailer, ask yourself: does it tick at least one of those boxes? People love to describe blogs as online journals, but they’re really not about you. They’re about us, and what we want to read. Just like your book, your blog has to have appeal. It has to give people a reason to want to read to it.
Also, almost everything you put online is something you have written. Every paragraph of text is an advertisement for your work, regardless of what it’s about. Maybe your unique voice or perspective is selling point enough.
We’ll be talking in more detail about content next week in What Selling Books and Fight Club Have in Common.
Get Somebody (Anybody?) To Read It
A blog is not like a shop window. No one will ever just happen to walk past, look in and say to themselves, “Oh, I must pop in there!” You have to send people to it. The best way to start to do this is to make blogging friends.
Being a blogger is about being part of a online community and, like life, the amount of effort you put into it dictates the amount you’ll get back out. If I was just starting out now, here are the steps I’d take to find, charm and chat with blogging friends:
- Find other blogs. There are billions of them. Well, millions anyway. You’ve found this blog, so we know you can do it. Blogs are a great source of more blogs. Look for recommendations in the blogger’s “blog roll” (um, don’t look for mine because I’m updating it at the moment; it’s coming soon), links in the comments and posts or browse the blogs of the people who leave comments. Then read them.
- Comment on other blogs. If you read something interesting, tell the blogger you thought so. If the blogger asks for your opinion, leave it. If you’ve been lurking around a blog for months and months, reading every word but never so much as squeaking out a “hi”, say hello. (Yeah, I’m talking to YOU!)
- Repeat as required. You find this easier to do if you collect all your favorite blogs in one place. I use Google Reader.
Drive Traffic With Twitter
I signed up for Twitter because it was the only thing that would download in the square foot of reception at the very top of the stairs that I could put my right hand into if I stood on tippytoes in the little holiday cottage where I wrote one of my books. In other words, by chance. But being on Twitter is the single best thing I’ve ever done for my writing career, and that’s something I’ll be elaborating on next week. I think it’s very, very important—but again, only if you actually want to be on there.
Twitter helps your blog because people like to click interesting links they see on Twitter and follow them to see where they go. I wouldn’t bombard people with links to your blog; I think a ratio of 1 blog post to 3 links about it is about right. I love using Buffer for tweeting links to my current and past blog posts and spreading them out over the day and through different time zones.
For a great primer in using Twitter in a way that’s both effective and enjoyable, I highly recommend Nicola Morgan’s book Tweet Right: The Sensible Person’s Guide to Twitter.
Find Fans on Facebook
I think every author should have a Facebook page that strangers can come and “like”—and NOT a personal profile page that they’ve commandeered for that purpose. At this stage, all you need to do is:
- Sign up for a public Facebook page
- Convince 25 of your friends and family to “like” it so you can get a customized URL, e.g. www.facebook.com/mousetrappedbook
- Throw a few photos, links, etc. up there so when someone does “like” it, there’s something for them to see.
We’ll come back to our Facebook page later when we launch our book.
What About Everything Else?
So that’s it. Blogging, Twitter and Facebook is all we’re going to worry about for now. Yes, there’s loads of other sites you can eagerly sign up for as well (Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Vimeo, etc. etc. etc. ETC!) but don’t take on too much too soon, or you’ll get blogging burn out before you’ve even customized your header. And I believe that these three are the most important ones anyway.
Tomorrow, we’re going to launch our book online. Oooh, how exciting!
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