Indie-Pendence Week Giveaway (US/Int): Felicity Heaton on the ins and outs of self-promo for Indie authors
Please help us welcome the lovely and incredibly talented Felicity Heaton!
GraveTells was kind enough to ask me to write a post for their site during the Indie-Pendence Week hop, specifically a post talking about marketing. I don’t think I have ever written such a difficult article.
I have been writing paranormal romance and science fiction romance since 2005. Back then, I was e-published, but it didn’t take me long to decide that I would be happier as an indie. I’ve been an indie writer since 2006. I did say it didn’t take me long to realise I wanted to switch sides, didn’t I? Since 2006, I have written and published over forty stories. To break it down, I currently have twenty short stories and novellas, and sixteen novels available to readers. I have another two novellas and a novel to release this year too. Yes, I’m prolific, and that’s part of the reason for my success and why I can be a full-time author making a very comfortable living from my books. Another part of the reason is that I’m focused on providing top quality, entertaining reads with unforgettable characters, intense passion, and packed with emotion and action. I’m dedicated to giving every reader that heart-jolting fix they want from a paranormal romance.
The final part of the reason behind my success is marketing. Marketing comes in many forms and I’m going to be honest and say a lot of them don’t work. Why they don’t will always remain a mystery. It could be anything from the timing of what you did, to the weather or the economy, to your blurb just didn’t work or your cover sucked. Much like selling books at Amazon, it’s a black art and one that no author will ever fully understand. Successful marketing means accepting that sometimes you’re going to do something that just didn’t work. You can analyse what you did and you may find out where things went wrong, but your time is probably better spent on trying a different approach.
A lot of people will tell you to study your competition, see what they do, and emulate them. While you may gain some success from that, there’s an even greater chance that you’re wasting your time. It’s almost impossible to replicate another author’s success by copying exactly what they’re doing because they probably have a very different audience to you. What their audience responds to might be completely different to what the people on your Facebook, Twitter or following your blog are interested in.
It’s impossible to boil down a guaranteed marketing strategy in one blog post, but I am going to cover the basics—the things we all should be doing as an author.
- Read a lot about writing, practice your craft, find your voice and style, and keep reading about writing, editing, and anything related to your craft. Don’t rush to publish the first thing you write on Amazon. No professional author publishes their first few stories. It takes you a few books to learn how you write, and to study the art so you’re providing readers with something worth their money.
- Write a great book, and get that book edited professionally, proofread by multiple sets of eyes, and honed to perfection. After that, edit it again. Question everything you write. Search for better ways to word things. Remember that writing is a profession. Be professional.
- Get a fantastic cover that really captures your book and write an enticing blurb. Honestly, together with writing a great book, these two make up the golden triangle of marketing. You can’t effectively market something that looks like it was done in Paint by your eight year old niece, or has typos in the blurb. Complete this golden triangle and your book will sell itself for the most part.
- Establish your presence. This should actually be number one because you can begin building your platform before ever writing a word of your story. There are numerous ways to build your platform:
- Find where readers go and talk to them. Note: talk to them about whatever they’re talking about, not spam them with your book/website/photos of your cat. Hopefully you’re writing in a genre you love to read too, and can talk to them about other authors’ books that you adore. Establish a connection with people. You can have an auto-signature with your deets in it, but don’t push your books on them. This is about connecting with people, not selling. You can learn a lot about what readers want from a book, and what sort of marketing entices them into buying.
- Set up a professional Facebook fan page and use it like a pro. Again, keep the photos of your cat to a minimum, unless you’re trying to sell that cat to your readers. Offer enticing snippets of your books, news about your releases, a new review you’ve had, an Amazon best seller, that your book just came out at Barnes and Noble Nook. Keep it on topic for at least 80% of the time. Be yourself though. Just because I said be professional, doesn’t mean I said be someone else. Be honest and open, and don’t put up a facade you think readers want to see. They prefer to know you as a person and can tell when you’re hiding behind a mask. Converse with your fans too. If they leave a comment, be courteous and answer it. Strike up conversations. It’s polite, and also a great way to find out what they liked/didn’t like about your latest book.
- Set up a Twitter account and establish a small presence at first. Follow authors you love, and review sites who you’ve worked with or want to work with, and go from there. Don’t cram your Twitter with other authors. Are they likely to be interested in your book? Nope, but they might retweet you if you’re nice to them. Try to strike a balance between authors, reviewers and readers. Participate in Follow Friday, and make sure you thank / RT anyone who mentions you. Retweet interesting posts by other people, especially reviews of books by authors you like/your audience may like. This might seem counter-intuitive, but we’re building a platform here and if you RT people, they may be kind enough to RT your posts they find interesting too. It also means you’re not flooding your followers with promo all the time (I know how tempting that is, but try to resist and keep promo to only a handful of tweets a week).
- Build a newsletter mailing list. I think this is a vital part of marketing. I have this deep-rooted fear that one day Facebook might accidently kick me off or Twitter might go bust, and there goes all my hard work and half of my platform. If you build a good mailing list and you control that list, it means that you still have a solid foundation to your platform. I’ve had a newsletter list since July 2010 and now have 2500 people on it. That’s more than on my Twitter and Facebook. I never send more than a single email when I have a release, and one monthly newsletter that covers my new reviews, news, book tour dates, latest release and coming release, and other titbits.
- There are other places to establish a good presence too, such as Shelfari and Goodreads. Make sure that your profile at these places is up to date, and check your books when they appear there to make sure they link back to your website and all of the information is correct.
- Speaking of websites. Do yourself a favour and get a professional looking website. In the age of WordPress websites, this isn’t too hard to achieve or too expensive if you shop around. A website should include a way to sign up to your newsletter and links to all your social networks. It should also include purchase links for your books, wherever they’re available, and an excerpt of the book. No reader is going to take a punt on a book without reading a sample first. If they do, well, they’re very brave. Make sure your website has a clear layout and doesn’t become cluttered. You want that information on your book to be easy to find and not give your reader a headache as they wade through flashing adverts.
- Make best use of your author pages at places like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Signing up to Author Central at Amazon allows you to have your very own author page with all your books, your bio, links to places like Twitter and your website, and even a Twitter and RSS feed of your blog, and videos.
- Blog. Blogging takes time but it’s well worth the effort. Always have a way for readers to follow your blog via a service such as Feedburner. Feedburner allows people to subscribe to your blog and receive your daily posts in their email inbox, which instantly increases the chances of them seeing your post about your new book and reading it. When you blog, make sure that it’s relevant to your audience, and make sure the post is well written. Try to think about the core subject of your post and include keywords in the text so places like Google have a better chance of displaying your page for those phrases. If your book is a vampire romance novel, then mention that a few times in the text, and maybe even the heading. Don’t sacrifice readability though, and don’t be tempted to stuff keywords. Google will penalise you for it.
- Once you’ve done all that (you’ll be very tired, no doubt, and probably wondering if all this hard work is worth it) then you can explore other avenues of marketing. There are three that work very well depending on what you want to achieve:
- Send your book out for reviews. Find review websites suitable for your books and check out their review policy before contacting them. Not everyone likes indies, and no one like spam emails. Personalise your emails and be friendly, and offer all the information about your book upfront so the reviewer is given a clear picture of your story and doesn’t have to go searching for information about the book. If they review your book, there’s a chance that they will post that review at places like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads too, increasing your chances of selling copies of that book.
- Arrange a book tour. This is fantastic on two fronts, but it does take a lot of work. You can increase awareness of your book and at the same time you can build your platform, especially if you are savvy and have a page on your website that becomes to central focus of the tour. This page should contain all the dates (you can link them up as the date rolls around and the post goes live), information about the book with buy links, and a good idea is to do some sort of huge giveaway there. You can set the rules for that giveaway. On mine, I aim to build my newsletter subscribers, Twitter and Facebook connections. Whenever a tour stop happens, you link it up and tweet / post about it, linking back to your website. Always mention the giveaways. It’s also a good idea to host a giveaway at as many stops on the tour you can as this is polite since the blogger has taken time to host you and promote your post. Hosting a giveaway with them allows them to increase their platform too. I tend to avoid giveaways involving copies of the book I’m promoting. If it’s a series, give away a copy of a previous book in it. I prefer to give away some fab signed swag. Many websites who host you will also add a graphic to their sidebar advertising your tour and linking back to your site if you provide them with one. If you don’t want to arrange a tour yourself, you can hire someone to do it for you.
- Participate in blog hops and giveaways. This is a fantastic way to build your platform and increase awareness of your books and you. There are often blog hops in progress or scheduled well in advance, so you can find the best ones for you to participate in. Check out review blogs in your genre and look in the side bars to see if they’re participating in any hops that might work for you, and then visit that hop and sign up. You don’t need to give away huge expensive prizes. You can if you want, but I’ve found that an ebook and signed swag, or a $10 gift certificate can gain as many entries as a whole set of 6 paperbacks. Plus, they’re much cheaper to post.
There is always a huge temptation to just buy adverts on websites and rely on those to do your marketing for you. Adverts should only be used as a small part of your marketing strategy. I’ve found over the years that you often don’t get as many clicks as you want, and adverts generally don’t generate sales for me.
However, adverts in combination with a book tour, reviews, and giveaways will have an effect. Apparently, it takes a human being seven times to move from not caring about a product to wanting it. All you need to do is get a reader to see your book seven times and there’s a better chance that they will buy a copy, or at least download a sample and check it out.
This probably seems like a lot to take in, and I know many authors reading this will already be doing everything I’ve mentioned, but it’s a good foundation to work from. The most important thing to remember is that you’re marketing a product to an audience, and that audience is paying for your product. I think a lot of authors can forget that fact in the rush to get their book on the market and make some money on it. I think about it every time I write a book. Is this a book that someone will enjoy and gain satisfaction from, and believe it was worth the cover price, or will they read it and feel they were cheated and ripped-off? No one likes to feel ripped-off, and it’s very bad for your brand as an author.
So on that note, I’m going to go back and say that the most important part of marketing is to write a great book, tell a great story, and give readers a satisfying experience… because the most effective form of marketing is word of mouth, and it can make or break you. If you give readers a badly written, poorly edited book, they’re going to tell all their friends to run like hell from your stories and not waste their money. If you give them unforgettable characters, undeniable passion, and a read that leaves them satisfied long after they read the last word, then they’re going to tell all their friends how amazing it was, and then you’re on the path to that best seller you’ve always dreamed about.
Thanks for reading, and I hope that by putting some of these ideas into practice that your platform and sales increase, and you achieve your dreams.
About the author
Felicity Heaton writes passionate paranormal romance books as Felicity Heaton and F E Heaton. In her books she creates detailed worlds, twisting plots, mind-blowing action, intense emotion and heart-stopping romances with leading men that vary from dark deadly vampires to sexy shape-shifters and wicked werewolves, to sinful angels and hot demons!
If you’re a fan of paranormal romance authors Lara Adrian, J R Ward, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Gena Showalter and Christine Feehan then you will enjoy her books too.
|If you love your angels a little dark and wicked, Felicity Heaton’s best selling Her Angel series is for you. If you like strong, powerful, and dark vampires then try the Vampires Realm series she writes as F E Heaton or any of her stand alone vampire romance books she writes as Felicity Heaton. Or if you’re looking for vampire romances that are sinful, passionate and erotic then try Felicity Heaton’s new Vampire Erotic Theatre series.
In 2011, four of her six paranormal romance books received Top Pick awards from Night Owl Reviews, Forbidden Blood was nominated as Best PNR Vampire Romance 2011 at The Romance Reviews, and many of her releases received five star reviews from numerous websites.
If you want to know more about me, or want to get in touch, you can find me at the following places:
This is our giveaway for the entire event week. You’ll have a chance to enter on each day’s post, so be sure to visit often! We’re giving away the following prizes: a $10 Amazon Gift Card and 4 swag packs filled with as much Indie loot as we can find (and maybe stuffed with a few extra goodies). All prizes are open to US and International readers! All you need to do to enter to win, is follow the instructions on each daily post. You guys know the drill. =)
Leave a comment telling us what marketing avenues impact you most as a reader and why, then fill out the Rafflecopter!
Be sure to leave your comment in the Comments area of this post, NOT in the Rafflecopter widget! If you are viewing this from our main Feed page, you will be unable to see the Comments area, so click the title of the post, then scroll down to the bottom. Good luck!
Tour the Hop!
Want to win more awesome Indie prizes and swag? Check out these other fantastic sites!
Thanks for visiting!