In this eight-part series, I’ll walk you through the creation of a book using the next release from Practical Fox as an example. As I do the steps to make Life Among the Paiutes, I’ll write about it! You can start with Step 1.
Ah, book marketing. There are so many ways to do it, and so many ways to hate it. Or love it! Maybe you love it. That would make your life as an indie publisher or small press so much easier. Try to love it.
There are many tutorials, books, webinars, and podcasts out there about book marketing, and some are better than others. (Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn has a solid roster of guests who have spoken about book marketing over the years.)
I’m going to talk about how I’m marketing Life Among the Paiutes, since that’s the project I’m working on now. I’ve used different tactics with other books, and some have worked better than others, but I’ve made back my investment on every book I’ve published and then some. My goal is usually to make enough to fund the publication of the next book, which is a modest goal, but it’s achievable.
You’ll want to start your marketing at least six months before your publication date. Get started on any of these tactics, plus maybe sending out press releases to book bloggers or local media, as early as you can.
This right here counts as book marketing. Not every piece of content you create has to be about the book directly. You can also write blog posts about the writing life, share images related to the book, give readers a behind-the-scenes look at your research process—it’s all fair game. Regular content can generate regular readers, so make a schedule and stick to it. Even a lax schedule, like this blog’s every two weeks pace, is fine as long as readers know when to expect new material.
A blog is also a great place to point people, especially in the early days of marketing. When someone asks what you’re working on, or the dreaded “How’s the writing going?”, you can point them to your blog. It’s a bit of deflection when you don’t want to answer, but it’s also marketing! Write your blog’s URL on a napkin for them, or better, hand them the business card you certainly have handy in your wallet with your website printed below your name.
This is where your blog lives. Say someone really does visit your blog and likes it. Hooray! Give them a couple more pages to click on, maybe with an easy-to-find menu. An About page is great, especially if it has links to places to buy or preorder your book.
If you’re feeling ambitious and have a couple hours to do some setup, you can create a store to sell your books on your website. That way people who like your blog can buy more of your work without even leaving your site. I use Woo Commerce because it plays nicely with WordPress, which is what I used to create this website in, like 2005. Don’t worry, it’s been updated a thousand times since then.
People don’t usually go clicking around the internet looking for stuff to read anymore. They want the things they like to come to them. That’s where your newsletter comes in.
I include two kinds of things in my newsletter: links to blog posts and newsy bits. Readers can click through to read the latest on my blog and maybe check out my other books while they’re on the website. Or they can just read the news from Practical Fox, which is often a publication date or a cover reveal. I’ve even asked subscribers to vote for the best text to put on the back of the book. They chose well.
It is my opinion, and I have no idea if anyone shares it, that you should only do the social media you already know and like. I gave up on Facebook a couple years ago, and I don’t miss it, sales-wise. I do use Twitter (@kristenhg) all the time, so I also tweet about my books there a lot. And I use Instagram (@kristen_hg), which has a lively #bookstagram hashtag for readers, writers, and publishers to use.
I should probably have a social media strategy and posting calendar, but I don’t. I use it organically, and I use hashtags, and I try to be as human as possible. It feels less like icky book marketing and more like “I made this book and I’d love for you to read it!” Because that’s true.
In 2019, Practical Fox published Beat the Boss, a role playing game about workplace and community organizing. We chose to use Kickstarter to raise the funds to cover our costs of production, and it worked! It was also kind of fun, in the way that tattoos are fun. It kind of hurts at the time, but as soon as you’re done you want to do it again.
So we’re doing it again. The Kickstarter campaign for Life Among the Paiutes begins April 13 and goes for 21 days. After that, regardless of whether or not the campaign is successful, the books will be available for order through all of the regular channels, including bookstores and directly from the Practical Fox website.
You’re so close to the finish line. Next up: don’t forget to celebrate your achievement.