Congratulations, you’ve published your first ebook. You’ve uploaded it to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Apple, and other online booksellers. The problem? Only Mom and Grandma know it exists (and Grandma doesn’t know how to work an eBook reader so she doesn’t count).
It’s time to start marketing!
The biggest obstacle we face as indie authors (yes, I’m one too) is obscurity. We’re competing with traditionally published authors and lots of other indies jumping on the e-publishing bandwagon.
Today we’re going to look at three ways to help readers find you: guest blogging, advertising, and giving away a free eBook (this can be a short story).
Guest Blogging for Book Promotion
You’ve heard of blogging, and may even have a blog, but have you ever blogged for other people? Guest posting is when you write an article for someone else’s site, someone’s site that is ideally more popular than yours and that caters to your target audience (i.e. the types of readers who might buy your ebook).
For example, if you’re a science fiction author, you might try to find a science fiction and fantasy review blog and see if the owner is open to publishing guest posts or reviews. The post shouldn’t be self-promotional; it should be informative and useful to the blogger’s audience. But, in exchange for submitting this free content, the owner should be willing to let you attach a bio. This can include information about you, and it should definitely include a link to your website and your sales links (i.e. your author or eBook page at Amazon).
Not everybody excepts guest posters, but lots of people do (hey, it’s free content for them and gives them a day off of writing). It’s best to comment on the person’s blog a few times, so they’re aware of you, before writing them and asking about a guest gig.
Advertising Your Ebooks
Guest blogging is a way to promote your work for free, but if you have some money to spend, you could try advertising. There are a lot of options, but most of them will end up costing you more than you earn in book sales (I’ve tried quite a few). There are a couple of good options though.
Lots of folks with fairly mainstream ebooks have had luck buying a sponsorship at Kindle Nation Daily (assuming there’s a Kindle-version of your eBook out there). They have a number of options at different price points.
I’ve also had some luck (I’ve made more than I’ve spent) advertising at Goodreads. There you do pay-per-click ads (meaning you only pay if someone clicks the ad) with a title, short blurb, and thumbnail picture of your book. I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re selling your eBook for 99 cents (because you have to pay about 25 cents just for a click), but for my novels, which are currently priced at $2.99, the royalty rate is high enough that I can afford a few clicks per sale.
You can check my site (link in my bio below) for a detailed how-to on starting a Goodreads campaign.
Giving Away a Free Ebook
When I released my fantasy novel, The Emperor’s Edge, as an ebook, I’d already written a couple of short stories with the same heroes. I decided to take one of the stories, Ice Cracker II, and release it as a free ebook. I uploaded it to several places online and also to Smashwords, an eBook distributor, and they got it into Barnes & Noble and the Apple Store. (As an indie author, you can’t normally list free ebooks for sale on your own–the minimum price at those stores is 99 cents, so Smashwords acts as a backdoor around that.)
At the end of my free short story, I included an excerpt of my novel as well as links showing folks where they could buy the ebook. While this didn’t turn me into an overnight bestseller, it did help me start selling ebooks at Smashwords and Barnes & Noble (places where I hadn’t had much luck before).
I’ve also read about authors who have a whole series of full-length ebooks (i.e. a six-novel fantasy series) who have giving away their entire first book for free and then gone on to do so well, they quit their day jobs and write full time now (Google “Brian S. Pratt Smashwords Interview” for some inspiration).
While there are lots of ways to market your book, these are three that can bring lasting sales and help get the word out about your work. Good luck!