This post, by Robert Bidinotto, originally appeared on his site. on 3/17/13.
Some time ago, I published a piece telling aspiring authors “Ten Reasons You Should Skip Traditional Publishers and Self-Publish Ebooks Instead.” Yet despite the clear advantages of “indie” over “traditional” publishing, the prospect of “DIY” publishing still scares the hell out of many writers. Their most common worry?
“But…how would I market my book on my own?”
That fear is the main reason why so many hold out forever for a traditional contract, then accept lousy ones. They want a publisher to take the burden of marketing off their backs.
Well, let me share a dirty little secret that publishers don’t want newbie authors to know. Despite all their advance promises to give you lots of promotional support, they mostly will leave the marketing of your book up to you.
That’s right: They save their promotional budgets for King, Evanovich, and Grisham—not for struggling beginners or “mid-listers.” So, if you’ll have to promote your book all by yourself anyway, then why surrender most of your royalties and rights to a publisher?
Still, the question remains: How do you market a self-published book?
I spent a long time studying the promotional methods of successful self-published authors before I released my debut thriller, HUNTER. And, as I have described here, their tips helped HUNTER to become a big bestseller in December 2011.
I learned that becoming a successful “indie” author requires two basic things. First, you must craft a book that appeals to an identified target audience. Second, you must make your book “discoverable” to that target audience.
Let me explain what that means, in ten steps:
1. Write the best book you can—then, write your next one.
Crafting an appealing book is 90% of the marketing battle. No amount of marketing ingenuity will help an unappealing book succeed. On the other hand, I’ve seen great books succeed with little or no marketing push. (Hugh Howey’s Wool is an outstanding example.)
Bottom line: Good “word-of-mouth” is the best advertising.
In addition to writing a good book, the next best marketing tactic is to write more good books. Each new title will broaden your name recognition and generate more sales for all your previous ones. That’s because many readers are “binge readers.” They find an author they like, and they then seek out and scoop up every single title that the author has written previously.
Even better, write a series. Books linked together by some connecting theme (think of John Gray’s “Mars and Venus” books), or by some appealing character (think: Harry Potter, Jack Reacher, Stephanie Plum, Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, Mitch Rapp, Mike Hammer, Scot Harvath, Sean Dillon, Spenser, Elvis Cole, Joe Pike, etc., etc.), will foster a virtual addiction in your fans, who will then eagerly await the publication date for every new installment in the series. Better yet, each new book released will attract new fans, prompting them to go back and buy all the prior books in the series. That’s how bestselling authors expand their audience over time, often geometrically.