The Indie Author’s Guide to Shameless Self-Promotion

The following is adapted from a post I contributed to a GoodReads group for indie authors.

Hitchhikers GuideIt’s been a month since Blue Karma hit digital shelves, and the ensuing weeks spurred my next stage of evolution as an author: from pure writer/editor to publicist. Anyone who thinks publishing an e-book is a “set it and forget it” enterprise is in for a shock. If you really want your book to have a chance at success, you have to become a one-person marketing division.

Promoting a book is, in some ways, as much effort as writing the damn thing in the first place. Self-published novels flood markets these days, so distinguishing your book from the endless glut of vampire romance, insipid thrillers, and paradox-laden sci-fi is a tremendous challenge. Still, don’t despair for your indie ebook! If you’re overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, try some of these plays from my (developmental) Indie Author’s Guide to Shameless Self-Promotion:

  • Freebies. The first step of shameless self-promotion is getting your book into as many hands (or onto as many e-readers) as possible. Four times as many people downloaded Blue Karma from Amazon on the single day I offered it free than paid for a copy in its first month of publication. It may seem contrary to the idea of selling your novel, but it’s an investment. If some of those people who get the book for free give it a positive review or recommend it to a friend, it will earn you back the few lost dollars (and, ideally, more).
  • Blogging. If you don’t have a blog already, what are you waiting for? Maintaining a website on topics of interest to your target demographic can connect you with potential new readers. For example, since I write primarily speculative fiction, my website features a lot of trending science news and sci-fi discussions, topics I think will appeal to the type of readers who might be interested in my novel (and since they interest me, too, writing fresh material is much more enjoyable). An established blog is also the perfect platform for generating advance interest about your next book. The trick is to avoid pure advertising. No one wants to read that!
  • Book review blogs. Browse GoodReads or WordPress and you’ll find plenty of prolific, well-followed book review bloggers, many of whom are glad to review indie novels. Contact those who feature genres or styles appropriate for your book and offer them a complimentary copy in exchange for their honest review. In addition to their own sites, many bloggers will post their review on hubs like GoodReads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, multiplying exposure for your book. I’ve had great success with this method so far. Best of all, it’s introduced me to some thoughtful, interesting bibliophiles whose blogs I truly enjoy browsing in my free time.
  • GoodReads. With 25 million members and over 20,000 book groups, there’s no better place to build a platform and connect with potential readers. But simply slapping an advertisement in the “Author Promotion” threads won’t do. Find groups dedicated to your genre and start talking. Get involved in some discussions and share some thoughts. Be an active community member, not just a billboard. If you contribute thoughtful posts, people will check out your profile and notice your book. When they tag it to read, their friends will see it. And so on.
  • Persistence. Few things are more discouraging than seeing your Amazon sales chart flatline. But how long did you spend writing your book? Blue Karma took me over a year. After that, a few months’ launch time doesn’t seem so onerous. We’d all love the overnight bestseller, but that’s not realistic. Accept that it’s going to take longer than you’d like to build momentum for your book. Don’t be daunted, and don’t give up.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of options; there are many promotional avenues I haven’t yet explored. Blue Karma is presently an e-book exclusive, which precludes opportunities like book signings at my local library or bookshop. I’ve also elected to pursue only cost-free marketing methods for the time being; I want to see how much I can accomplish with my own effort before I experiment with paid advertising.

It will be a while before I can assess accurately whether my strategy proved successful. Shameless self-promotion is a brave new world for me, and probably for most other indie authors making their debut. But so far the tactics discussed here seem to be working for me, so hopefully they’ll help you, too!

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