SELF-PUBLISHING KNOWHOW Marketing Your Self-published Book

In part 3 of our series, Camilla Chester leads us through the complex but vital task of marketing a self-published book.

Beyond producing the best book you possibly can, how to market your book is the second most important consideration to make. It is not, however, exclusive to self-published authors. I attended the Debut Author Bootcamp run by SCWBIs Pulse (lots of Pulse events are open to self-published authors so it is worth keeping an eye on their programme) this summer.  It was a big eye-opener for me to know that traditionally published authors are expected to be largely responsible for their own marketing and self-promotion. The difference with self-published is that nobody else cares if your book sells or not, the push has to come from you.

1. Website

Essential. You can do it pretty cheaply but you have to have a good one. I set up my website before I had published my first book. It is how people find you. I sell my books through my website and have a domain name that is easy for me to be found on the web, but this does mean I pay an annual fee. I can be contacted through my website, I write a fairly regular blog and I keep it up to date. It is my most valuable marketing tool.

2. Social media

Essential. You may not need all of the accounts but ones to consider are: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and GoodReads. Think about choosing consistent names that make you easy to find. Post regularly if you can (not just about yourself) and link your accounts together.

3. Getting reviews

It is very important for Amazon sales to get reviews. Ask everyone you know who has read your book to review it for you. I am part of a Facebook group where members will review your book in return for a free copy but you must be prepared to review for other people and also be aware that you might get a bad review. Ouch. There are a few groups out there, so it is worth searching.

4. Go local

Don’t try and get your book into the Asda bestseller list — concentrate on your home town. People are more willing than you realise to support a local children’s author. Be brave — ring your local schools, drop into your library and local bookshops. Talk to everyone you meet about what you do. I would definitely recommend doing a book launch. You’re published now — time to let everyone know, but don’t be pushy!

5. School visits

Hands down the best way to sell books, plus you can charge for your time. It is very hard to get into schools (it is usually through someone you know), so make sure if you do get a gig that you know what you’re doing. Prepare. The SCWBI run workshops on this, it is well worth going on one before you go into a school. You want to be invited back!

6. School librarians

You might want to think about how your book could relate to the curriculum (more tricky if you’re writing for YA) and have downloadable teaching resources on your website, this could help you open up communications with school librarians who could buy your book for use in school.

7. Marketing materials

I spent money on a pop up banner which I use at fetes, school visits, library visits, career fairs and book signings. It is a bit redundant now that I have a second book out (it is the cover of my first book) but it is certainly eye-catching. You definitely need something you can give out to children. Bookmarks are good and fairly cheap, business cards, pens, postcards, anything like that, but they can get pricey so be careful!
My book banner features the cover of my first book. 

8. Other events

Beware of anything you have to pay for. I avoided the local library indie author day that was charging £30 for a table as I doubted I would cover the cost from sales, similarly fetes and fairs can often be non-starters (although they work well for promotion). Christmas stalls can work as signed books make a good gift.

9. Sales vs promotion

What I have found is that sometimes you have to chalk things up to promotion and not be disappointed if it doesn’t result in sales. You are a brand. If you can get your name noticed then you may stay a bit longer in this competitive market. I’ve done a few things where I’m not sure anybody has noticed, like local radio and articles in free distribution magazines.

10. Extras

This is not an exhaustive list of everything you can do to help your self published book fly of the shelves. There are many different tricks of the trade that work for some and not for others. Marketing is the most fatiguing part of being self-published. If it makes you feel tired, you’re doing well! If something else has worked well for you, share it in the comments! 

Header image: Medieval printing press (Wikimedia Commons)

Camilla Chester writes for children aged 8 to 12. She joined SCBWI before publishing her debut, Jarred Dreams in 2016. Camilla’s second book EATS was out at the end of April 2017 and her third, Thirteenth Wish is due to be published in April 2018. 


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