Writing Novels That Sell with Adrienne deWolfe

Book Promotion Strategy for Indie and Midlist Authors

(Part 4 in the 4-part Series, Book Marketing Strategy)

Although book promotion may be an expensive proposition, a well-planned book marketing strategy can benefit fiction writers who are on a shoe-string budget. 

This article, Book Promotion Strategy for Indie and Midlist Authors, offers suggestions for focusing your campaign dollars, based on the types of novels that you write.  In addition, I shall address pricing, virtual book tours, brick-and-mortar book tours, social media strategies, and email campaigns.  

Indie Fiction Authors

Before you begin book promotion, do your best to identify your reading demographic. If your novel is genre fiction, the publishing conglomerates have already statistically identified your target audience.  Find out who these readers are:  age, gender, profession, socio-economic background, country/culture, etc.

Mainstream and Literary Indies will have more trouble identifying a niche audience for their fiction.  If you're not certain whether your book can be classified as genre fiction, mainstream fiction, or literary fiction, consult with two or three trusted, market-savvy booksellers. Let them read your galley before you plan your book marketing strategy.

Next, find out where your reading public dwells online.  Look for venues that offer space for free posts and weblinks, such as Facebook, My Space, Linked In, Good Reads, etc. You might also seek out potential readers through the blogosphere, the traditional press, writers associations, readers groups, and community organizations.

Be sure to take advantage of Amazon.com's Author Central feature.  Create your free page and promote it widely.  

Other tips for writing and pricing for the ebook market:

1) Write fast (post a new book every 3 months or less)

2)  Write serial content.  

2) Get at least 3 books posted for sale simultaneously.  This strategy will help boost sales, because readers of ebooks love to download a series.  If they like your first book, they're more likely to download the rest of your series all at once.  (Readers of ebooks know that book prices tend to go up as the popularity of a series increases.  Thus, savvy and/or loyal readers will want to buy all your books immediately, to reduce their potential out-of-pocket expense.  Obviously, multiple, up-front downloads work to your advantage.)

3) Price the first book in your series way lower than the other books ($0 to 99 cents).  This strategy encourages readers to try an unknown author.  If they do like your writing, they're more likely to hunt for your second, and then your third books (which, naturally, you will price at ever higher increments.)  Warning:  readers of ebooks tend to draw the line around $4.99 for a popular commercial novel.  Don't price yourself out of the marketplace!

Authors of Category Fiction

Category or “line” novels (example: Harlequin’s Temptation line in the Romance genre; Pocket Books’ Star Trek line in the Science Fiction genre) have large paperback print runs, but their shelf lives are short, because the publisher is cranking out new books for the line every two to four weeks.

For Category Authors, a publisher’s book club is a double-edged sword: I’ve heard veteran Category authors complain that they’ve seen the “book club” version of their novels being sold in used book stores a week (or more) before their book is released to the public. Keep in mind that book clubs and discount or used book stores are actually helping your book marketing strategy by exposing you to readers whom you might not normally have reached.

Therefore, when planning your book promotion plan, Category Authors should look to long-term career goals, rather than short-term sales. Concentrate on improving your name recognition, especially if your long-term career goal is to write a cross-over or break-out novel.

When planning your book marketing strategy, promote yourself first.  Promote your new book title second.  Most importantly, market directly to the readers.

Authors of Midlist Fiction

Midlist paperback novels (sometimes called Single Title books) don't have the line recognition of Harlequin Temptation or Star Trek; nor do they have the built-in benefit of a publisher's book club. Midlist books tend to come out more than a year apart, which is a long time to keep a reader waiting.

Thankfully, Midlist books usually have longer shelf lives than Category novels. On average, a Midlist book remains on the shelf for 1-3 months. In my hometown, I noticed that my bestselling Wild Texas Nights series, Texas Outlaw, Texas Lover, and Texas Wildcat, stayed on the shelves for 6 months. I speculate that there are several reasons for this coup:

  • I was a local author, living in and writing about Texas.
  • I’d autographed the books.
  • I’d participated in a book signing or community event at those particular stores.
  • I’d developed a friendly business relationship with the booksellers.

So . . . draw your own conclusions!

For Midlist Authors, book promotion may raise advance orders.  It may also increase your print run for your next release. Midlist Authors will benefit from promoting their name first, and their title second.

Virtual Book Tours 

For ebooks, arrange a virtual "book tour" with friendly reviewer websites and fan websites that cater to the type of books that you write.  A virtual tour usually consists of lining up 10 or more heavily-trafficked sites that will run blog posts, written by you, about your book and associated topics.  Typically, you have to schedule the post months in advance with the blog owner, so plan ahead.  Then be sure to promote the dates and the sponsoring websites to your readers.  

During your virtual book tour (see sample post), offer giveaways and raffles.  To simplify your life in the giveaway world, create an account at Rafflecopter.  This free service will keep track of raffle entries and calculate a "fair" winner for you.  

Throughout your virtual book tour, be sure to visit your host sites often to answer any comments that your posts receive.  Another trick (to keep readers participating in your tour) is to write different topics for each blog site.  Don't keep rehashing the same old author interview!  Get creative.  Invent fresh angles about your book research, your hobbies, and other complementary topics that will show your depth as a Human and/or that will entertain your readers.  This strategy takes extra work, but it will help to increase the "likes" on your Facebook page, the comments on your posts, and the sales of your books.

Paperback Book Signings

For paperback and trade books, live signings at a brick-and-mortar store help to build rapport with booksellers, especially independents.  When planning your book signing strategy, concentrate on stores that hand-sell to their clientele. 

Next, hunt for other authors who are willing to team up for a book signing.  Ideally, you'll want to join forces with published veterans who have new book releases and large mailing lists in the store's geographical area.  To find these veterans, consult with the bookseller or Google “book signings” in your preferred region. 

You’ll want to sign books with veteran authors so you can sell books to each other's readers.  Be sure to team with authors whose readers fit your demographic.  If you're writing Splatterpunk, for instance, authors of Sweet Romance novels are unlikely to buy your book.

Email Campaigns

To make email an effective book marketing strategy, I recommend that you work with an email marketing company that helps you adhere to the CAN-SPAM Act.  Look for services that offer newsletter templates, auto-responders, and content management systems to improve your book promotion success.

Mail Chimp lets you email up to 2,000 addresses for free before charging a monthly fee. However, Mail Chimp forbids affiliate marketing in its Terms of Service. 

AWeber costs $19 per month and lets you email your first 500 subscribers for $1.00.  The monthly fee increases as you email more subscribers.

Constant Contact offers a 60-day free trial then charges $15 per month to email up to 500 subscribers.  The monthly rates increase as you email more subscribers.

Invest Your Book Promotion Dollars Wisely

First-time authors, Indie Authors, and break-out authors may find book promotion to be more beneficial to their sales than Category and Midlist authors.

If you don’t feel comfortable investing in book promotion, spend your money on things that will help your writing career: a fabulous book cover, better computer equipment, or a more extensive research library.  After all, your best guarantee of sales is writing great content.


Posts in the 4-part series, Book Marketing Strategy: