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  • Phil Parker

Eight tips for promoting your book before launch

If you're a self-publishing author, acquiring the knowledge and skills of marketing experts is essential. It is easy to overlook a crucial point in time as you prepare your book to meet its audience - it's not the Launch. (I've given it a capital letter because it's important!) The launch is a big, big event. You might have arranged for it to coincide with a Book Tour (linked to the company I use). You've probably got your emails and social media alerts scheduled. That's great. But you should have started BEFORE this. Let me give you eight tips to identify what they are.

1. Update your website

You have got a website, haven't you? You need it to accommodate ALL the details about your new book. If this is your first and you're likely to be unknown, your internet presence is vital for people to get to know you. Set up your profile, make sure you sound human! Be quirky. Show off your book cover, get the image established in people's minds. Offer readers a chance to read the opening chapter - it works as a great hook. Make sure there are links to where people can buy your book and make sure they're on all the key pages. Finally, make sure you site looks professional. People will judge your site before your book, if the site looks naff, they may think your book will too. Read more about this here.

2. Maintain presence on social media

You need to know which platforms work best for you; Twitter has a lot of authors, Facebook has lots of writer groups and advertising potential, Instagram has its visual appeal and a younger audience profile. Whichever you choose, it needs to be maintained. Contribute something on it every day! Yes, every day! 30-40 minutes if you can spare it. To do what? To make connections. Adverts are all well and good but connect with other writers, writing communities help each other. A lot! But forge relationships with people first. Do not - I repeat - do not just promote your book endlessly. You will lose more followers than you gain. Social media is a place to meet people, not greet them at their door so you can sell them something!

At the same time, build excitement. Talk about your anxiety regarding the launch, your excitement at finally reaching the point of being a real author! Sound human! Countdowns are good for this.

You can schedule tweets on Twitter via HootSuite and analyse your members via Tweetsmap. There's a useful article here on effective social media usage.

3. Consider newsletters, podcasts and a blog

Newsletters are ideal for regular, small chunks of information to send out to people who are interested in your work. If you're just starting out it takes time to build up this network, but it's a goal to aim for. Don't send them too often, they get spammed. But for your launch, they're perfect. Podcasts are increasing in popularity, especially for people under the age of 40. We're starting to demand more experiences in multi-media formats, audio and visual stimuli are powerful. It might take more technical knowledge and equipment perhaps though mobile phones will do lots! Professionalism is key here though! No wobbly camera work please! Or crackly sound. You will be judged.

Blogs (and vlogs) are a brilliant way to build connections with your readers, in non-salesy ways. But it takes time, you must be consistent in your output. What do you blog about? Try to maintain a focus that is linked to your brand. If you're a fantasy writer with stories based on mythology, blog about legends, myths and stories linked to them, show us history, images of locations etc. Engage people with fun quizzes and surveys. But remember my repeated point about being human - write about things that matter to you and 'sell' it in a way that generates interest in others. People may find your book because of your blog. There are some useful pointers here, here and here.

4. Practise your pitches

Lots of people will ask you this question - "What's your book about?"

You need your "elevator pitch" - a 3 sentence summary which captures the story's essence. Refining it is a skill that takes time, it won't come straight away. It needs to hook the questioner, make them want to know more. If you're at a sales event (like a con) then you'll repeat this pitch all the time. It's perfect if you choose to submit to agents and publishers too.

Develop an extended version of the elevator pitch - for someone who looks like they are genuinely interested and not just being polite. Include some info about character and plot. Don't include spoilers.

Next, have a protracted pitch ready. This is for someone who has a good grasp of your genre, of the kind of books/authors like yours. Compare your work accordingly. Define your USP (Unique Selling Point) as discreetly and modestly as you can. You have to stand out in the market place - what does your story do that is different to the rest of the market? There are tips here, here and here.

Now, rehearse those things. Be able to recite them with polish, professionalism and confidence.

5. Create promotional images

I'm not talking book covers here, that's already been done. Professonally. These are images which launch your book. These may include the cover, your name and perhaps quotes from people who've read the story (get their permission first!). Have a variety that do similar things so they can be repeated in the same places as you build up to the launch. They do need look professional so get someone with artistic flair to do this if you can't. Make sure your brand is visible! If you can't find someone (or can't afford it) then it's worth using software like Canva which provides templates you can adapt easily.

There are examples here and here. I like to use a downloadable program called DP Animation Maker.

6. Build your writers' (and bloggers) network

Speaking personally, one of the best things about becoming an author was becoming friends with so many other writers, often people whose books I'd been reading for years. Social media allows this to happen. For me, Twitter is best. Here are some tips:

a. Explore the Followers of people who you rate and have started to follow. Check their profiles and look at what they say. (Don't just click willy-nilly, you are making friends here!!) Make sure they match the kind of person you're looking for. (Yeah, like dating!)

b. Check the #hashtags - like #WritingCommunity or #AmWritingFantasy or lots of others.

c. Use these #hashtags to encourage others to engage with you

d. Reply to other writers with something encouraging and positive, show them you empathise.

e. Look for bloggers who may be willing to review your book. #bloggers #blogging

In Facebook there are loads of groups that will match up with your genre, join them, meet people that way. 'Like' what you see and add comments.

All this takes time. It's not about building a thousand followers in two months either. It's quality interactions, not quantity. It's about the relationships that will sustain you and help promote you.

7. Encourage pre-orders

You may do this best via your website and link it to Amazon (if that's where you book is on sale). There is an excellent, step-by-step approach I recommend here. Another one here. I also recommend getting your BETA readers and blogger reviewers to have their reviews ready in plenty of time so people who pre-order have enough information to go on. If you have only 3 or 4 reviews (who might be family and friends anyway!) objective sales might hesitate pre-ordering if they have little or nothing to go on.

8. Enjoy the process

Don't turn this process into a treadmill. As a self-published author you have a lot of work that is mainly (but not entirely) done by the publisher. The drawback is that it will take a year and a half till your book appears in shops! Self-publishing gives you total control and that is brilliant! But it's hard work. The other benefit is the people you encounter during that process, other authors and bloggers who will join you on your journey. Just as you will join them. I started this journey in January 2018 after completing my first novel. I knew nothing and so the learning curve was almost vertical. Now I have a wide circle of friends who've helped me design book covers, acted as beta readers, reviewed by stories and given me honest and constructive feedback as well as supported me when I've felt down. No one else will understand what you're going through (they may try of course) but the writing community is a wonderful thing and it will help you enjoy the process, if you let it.

This post was prompted by an article by Phil Stamper-Halpin, you can read it here.

If you've enjoyed this post and would like to share it, that's fine. I would ask that you reference The Speculative Faction as well please.

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