Many of you have written to me, expressing interest in self-publishing your book. I’ve got some info coming on the logistics of self-publishing, but in the meantime, this post is a guest post written by Annie Dike. Annie is a sailor who quit her job as an attorney, and now writes books in addition to a hilarious blog at HaveWindWillTravel.com. She’s smart, funny, and she’s going to give you her best piece of advice on marketing your book (although I think this advice could apply to marketing other things as well). You can get her books on Amazon. Now, without further ado, heerrrreeee’s Annie!
“You know, it’s funny. I thought they would just fly right off the shelves.”
That’s me. It’s a quote from a podcast interview I gave recently about how to make money remotely and I was talking about the first book I wrote — the one that I polished, perfected, self-published and watch sit stagnant for months. Why? Because I did zip marketing for it.
Marketing? Why, what is this marketing of which you speak? Long story short: in a former life, I was an attorney and the first book I published was a practical guide to hourly billing: The Billable Hour. Ooohh… But simply because it was a good idea — I had a certain skill-set that would be incredibly useful to thousands of young attorneys if only I shared it — I got delusional in thinking this little book might be my #1 bestseller, my thank-you-I’m-going-to-go-live-in-the-Bahamas-now book if I just wrote it.
I’m here to tell you it was not, not initially anyway. After a year of hard-fought, heavy marketing, I’m proud to say it was finally picked up by a legal publisher. I made mountains of mistakes and learned a ton about marketing in the process, though, and I’m happy to share.
When I talk to budding authors about self-publishing, marketing is always my primary focus. This is because I believe anyone can write and self-publish a book. I didn’t say a good one. Writing skills are different. But, the mechanics of self-publishing are not really that hard. You write the book, you fit it into Amazon’s user-friendly template (or hire a graphic designer to do that), you upload, you publish. Then it’s out there. That’s really about it.
While I am happy to answer any questions and share the totality of my experience about the actual writing and publishing aspects of being a self-published author (please contact me if you’re interested in discussing further), I believe the more critical advice for a new author is a discussion about marketing, because publishing a book that sells? For me, and many other struggling authors, that is the real hard part.
There are probably hundreds of thousands of amazing self-published books on Amazon that no one knows about. I don’t want that to be your book. I meet so many cruisers who say they have many stories to share and that they want to write a book. I want them to! I want them to enjoy the process, take pleasure in watching their stories grow and blossom on the page. But, most importantly, I want their book to sell so their stories actually reach and impact people. As an author, isn’t that the true goal?
Whether you like it or not, one must market. I used to hate it. It made me feel like a sleazy car salesman because I was piss-poor at it. When it finally dawned on me that I might have to — aha! — tell people about my Billable Hour book, I decided forceful email was definitely the way to go. I created a Constant Contact account, gathered some emails (I won’t say how) and fired off 250, 500, 1,000 unsolicited epistles thinking surely I would sell at least a hundred books. Surely!
How many did I sell? Two. After weeks of vigorous, aggressive marketing? Two. Why? Because my efforts were just that — vigorous and aggressive. My outreach pitches reeked of desperation. I sounded like I was literally begging people to buy my book (because I was).
Don’t be me. Stand on my mistaken shoulders and get a leg up. Once I learned what marketing really is, I embraced it, and I’m going to let you in on the secret. All marketing really boils down to is sharing yourself — your vision, your passion, your content, your stories, your struggles, your everything.
Market First: Grow a Loyal Audience
You have to give away SO much content away for free, over and over and over again, every day — good, quality, took-you-a-long-time-to-create content for free (yes, free!). People expect that. They get it elsewhere. Once they start to connect with you and your free (yes, I’ll say it again — free!) content, you eventually gain the reward of their attention.
If they sign up as a follower (and still haven’t bought a darn thing), reward them for that simple act by giving them exclusive good free content. Give and give until you’re almost exhausted creating it. But, trust me, once you learn what “good content” is, you’ll find it’s rather easy to sweep up off the floor under your writing desk and share.
People want to be a part of your writing adventure. They want to know what stories you scrapped, what settings you like and why, what characters you’re thinking about killing off. Think of it like rolled-out cookie dough. Your book is what you punch out with cookie cutters but there is always so much good dough left in between that can be mashed up, re-shaped and used again. That’s what your followers are interested in — the in-between stuff. Share this with them, every day, for free, for a long time. Feel free to check out any of my examples shared via the blog, Facebook and YouTube at HaveWindWillTravel.com.
Take the time to grow your audience, reward their loyalty and attention with valuable free content and then, one day, you announce the all-too-exciting, the unthinkable: “Guess what guys. My book is complete.” Now — before your book has even been published — you have a whole audience salivating for your stories, eager to buy your book.
The reason I always talk about marketing first is because I think it’s the most important part of self-publishing and, actually, should be the first thing you think about. You can market — a.k.a. share the journey and grow your following — the entire time you’re writing the book. Why would you not? Think of how much more fun the writing process will be — to have “fans” following you for the whole adventure.
I want to help you self-publish a book. But, more importantly, I want to see your book reach and impact people. You’re writing to share yourself, so start doing that now. That is always my first word of advice. And, speaking of, since I’ve got your attention: “Guess what guys. My second book is complete!” Keys to the Kingdom goes to print in October!
Got a question for Annie? Leave a comment below, or go visit her at HaveWindWillTravel.com!