4 Tips for Marketing Your Indie Novel in 2020
If you’re an indie author with a complicated relationship to book marketing, you’re not alone. Marketing is a key part of building a self-publishing career, but it also tends to be the part of publishing that stresses many authors out.
While this may be an oversimplification, we find it helps to think of marketing as storytelling. You revise and refine your novel in order to present your story to readers in the clearest, most engaging and compelling way. Honing your skills as a marketer is similar: you’re trying to find the clearest, most engaging way to tells readers why they should want to read your book — and how to do so.
In addition to keeping that in mind, here are four more tips for marketing an indie novel.
1. Put together a proto persona
Authors are always urged to “write to market.” This means that when you’re writing your book, you take into account the standards and expectations surrounding your genre. (Not that you need to totally adhere to them, but you should be aware of them.)
Establishing a proto persona is a way of helping you market to, well, market. It allows you to develop a clear image of your target reader and to base your marketing decisions around them.
When trying to come up with a proto-persona, think about things like gender, age, interests, habits, etc. For example:
- What other books do they enjoy reading?
- Who are their favorite authors?
- What do they do for a living?
- Did they go to school? If yes, what did they study?
- What are their hobbies?
- What’s their favorite movie?
Answering these kinds of questions will help you locate the communities or interest groups you should reach out to when marketing your book. If you’ve determined that your target readers are cat-lovers who read high fantasy, there’s no point wasting your time reaching out to communities of dog-loving, crime readers.
2. Nail your book description
Another publishing wisdom oft-repeated to aspiring authors is: your book’s #1 marketing tool is its cover. Again, this is good advice because an intriguing, professional cover that evokes its story’s genre and themes is a key part of attracting potential readers.
If your cover does manage to spark the interest of a reader, a key next step in securing a sale will be to have a book description that continues to reel them in. Luckily, acing your book description isn’t rocket science! And you can generally write a solid one by following these four steps:
- Introduce your main characters. Who is your book about? Long backstories aren’t needed here, just brief introductions.
- Establish the main conflict. What is the story about? What are the characters going through? Again, keep things short and just mention the story’s primary conflict, without delving into too many subplots.
- Explain the stakes. Why does this primary conflict matter? While the conflict of a book might be “Peter needs to find his lost dog,” the stakes would be the follow-up “or else” statement. In other words, what happens if Peter doesn’t find his dog?
- Tell readers why your book is for them. You can do this by emphasizing your book’s themes, such as, “At its core, this book is about the resilience of the human spirit.” Or you might use this as an opportunity to compare your title to other popular titles, such as, “Fans of Lauren Groff and Sally Rooney will enjoy this read.”
3. Grow your mailing list
It’s much harder to turn someone who’s never bought one of your books into a customer than to get someone who has read one of your books to buy another. That’s because, if they enjoyed your book, there will already be trust established between you and the reader.
That’s why, if you’re planning on publishing more than one title, it’s important to create a way for you to stay in touch with all those people you put so much effort into marketing to the first time around.
Enter mailing lists. A mailing list is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a list of people you send your newsletter to. The more people who subscribe to your mailing list, the more of an audience base you have to tell about your future publications.
If you’ve got a website or blog, a great way to grow your mailing list is through lead magnets. A lead magnet is something you offer people in exchange for their contact info. For instance, you might give people the opportunity to read the first chapter of your book free if they subscribe to your newsletter.
There are many ways to get creative with lead magnets! Let’s say you write science fiction. Why not create a cool-looking PDF of the best sci-fi novels of the 20th century for people to download — in exchange for, you guessed it, their email address.
For more tips on setting up and growing a mailing list, check out this free course!
4. Collaborate with similar authors
Now that you’ve got a mailing list set up — or if you’ve created an author website, blog, or social media profile — you may have been able to acquire a following. One great way to keep up fresh content for your following and to reach new audiences is to join forces with a fellow author who also has a following. You can host takeovers of each others’ social media accounts, or swap mentions of each other’s books in your newsletters.
You should pair up with an author who writes similar books to yours, or in the same genre, so that your collaboration doesn’t feel like it’s coming out of left-field for your followers. For instance, if you write romance, don’t suddenly start sending horror recommendations to your subscribers!
What are some of your go-to book marketing tips? Share any thoughts or questions in the comments below!