If you are a best-selling author with an agent and a major traditional publisher who are doing big- budget promotions for you, you don’t need to read this article. You probably won’t be reading it anyway. But if you are an author with a small independent publishing company (indy publisher) or you are self-publishing your book, you might.
When I published my first book in 1994 with a traditional publisher, authors weren’t expected to promote their books much. That was the publisher’s job. Twenty years later Christian book publication has changed dramatically. Now even traditional publishers expect their authors to promote their own work. If you self-publish or publish with an indy publisher, you are completely responsible for promotion.
Let’s say you have written the best Christian fiction book ever, but your name is not well known and you are self-publishing. Face it, that book will go nowhere without promotion. But where do you begin?
Maybe you’ve gotten yourself on mailing lists that talk about book promotion that sounds impossible. They talk about making podcasts and joining Google’s Author’s Hang-out, and you’re still trying to figure out how to get your Facebook personal profile to work. Pretty soon it sounds impossible. You want to be an author, but the social media expectations make you want to give up.
I’m not suggesting that, to promote your book, you need to do everything that’s out there. But you do need a place for readers to find you. I call these four places “Must-have Homes” because they are close to essential unless you’ve found other social media to take their place. If your readers can’t find you, your book won’t sell. I hate learning to do new technological things and I resist most social media, but my author presence lives in these four homes, and if I can do it, you can too.
Today Amazon is the one place your book must be on sale. Your book is probably already distributed through Amazon, but don’t stop there.
Amazon’s reviews are an author’s best publicity tool. Even readers who go to a brick-and-mortar bookstore to buy books often check the Amazon reviews of a book on their phone before buying it.
Maybe you have three 5-star reviews by your friends so you think you don’t need anymore reviews. Actually the more reviews the better. Even negative ones can help. They show that people other than your friends are reviewing it. A reviewer might not like your book, for example, because she thinks there are too many Bible references in it. Another reader might say, “That doesn’t bother me. I like books that are deeper and make reference to the Bible.” So the negative review makes you want to buy it because you feel the review is unbiased, but the reason the reviewer didn’t like it won’t extend to you.
Also, Amazon operates on algorithms. When your book has more than twenty reviews, for example, Amazon starts to suggest your book to readers who look at similar books. So having a good number of Amazon reviews is really helpful for your book.
Amazon’s Author Central is also a great place to promote your book. It’s free and easy to put up an Author Central profile, so why wouldn’t you do it? It allows readers who only come to Amazon for books to find out about you. You can find Author Central here.
Other distributors like Christian Book Distributors and Barnes and Noble can be good too, but Amazon is a must-have.
Next to Amazon, I believe the most important home for an author is his or her own website or blog. Even a simple blog will give a place for readers to find you and contact you.
Feature Your Books
At the top of my website I have almost all of my books displayed. Each book cover links to a page that tells more about the book, where to order it, gives discussion questions, etc. My website is the best place to find almost all my books and get detailed information about them.
Develop an Email List
A website or blog also gives a place for you to develop the all-important email list. Authors talk a lot about this today, because if readers sign up for your email list, they have given you permission to keep in contact and tell them when your future books come out. Actually, if you have people following your blog or Facebook Page, this will do the same thing.
Offer Helpful Content
If you want people to follow you, it’s important to post helpful information that people will find through search engines when they are looking for information. What content can you give that will actually help readers, not just give them another thing to read?
On my website/blog I have static articles on writing as well as free resources such as Christmas programs and puppet shows, ESL Bible stories, and gluten-free recipes. My blogs are targeted toward writers and people in ministry. I try to give encouragement and practical tips that will help those people. You can find my website here.
Facebook Author Page
Facebook is one of the largest social media in the world. Five hundred million people are on Facebook. Not everyone likes Facebook, but some use Facebook as their favorite form of social networking. You can make your own author Facebook Page for free. It’s not hard and you can probably find a friend to help you set up a Page if you need it.
You can make your blog feed to your Facebook Page. Then whoever “likes” your Page gets your blog on their personal profile. You can offer extra content, like short quotes, on your Page if you like. You can share things from Facebook that you think will interest target readers. I believe the secret is in offering posts that will interest your target readers but not weigh them down with a huge quantity of “junk mail” that only irritates them.
Some people actually use a creative and helpful Facebook Page instead of a website or blog, so that can work too. I figure, if you are on Facebook yourself, why wouldn’t you use this easy way for readers to find you?
You can find my Facebook Author Page here.
I am NOT hunting for more social media to begin using because I already struggle to keep up with what I have, but I discovered Goodreads this year and am finding it really helpful. LinkedIn may be helpful to certain professional people, but it was no help to me. Pintrest is a great place to pin recipes and some authors use it well, but I don’t use it much. Goodreads, however, is all about books and authors and connections. I can’t understand why all authors aren’t on Goodreads unless they are so well known they don’t need to do any of their own promotion.
On a personal level, Goodreads is a great place to post all the books you read or have read, write a short review on them, give them a star rating and compare books with other readers. If you only do that, Goodreads is helpful to remember details about books you’ve read long after you’ve read them. At first it can be a little hard to navigate Goodreads, but once you start clicking on anything and everything, you’ll soon find your way around.
Goodreads can also be a great home for an author. You’ll want to set up your own author page. It’s not hard and any Goodreads users who find your name and wonder who you are will be likely to go to your author page. They may even follow you.
Goodreads also has these other great features for an author.
Giveaways are a good way to solicit reviews. Of course, you can ask your friends to post reviews. These are great, but often sound a little biased. You can offer your book for free on Kindle and hope that some readers will review your book, but I think Goodreads Giveaways is a better source of reviews. Readers who register for giveaways often realize that the main purpose for giving a book away is to get reviews. You aren’t guaranteed reviews from those who win your books, but you may get them. When you send the books they win, you can always mention, “If you enjoy the book I’d really appreciate an honest Amazon or Goodreads review.”
Goodreads Giveaways have several advantages over Kindle Free Books. For one thing, when your book is free on Kindle you may have thousands of people who download it for free. Many of those people will never read it, but they have it if they want it so they don’t need to buy it. With the giveaways, people who are interested in your book register for it. You only give away as many as you choose. You can even give away only one book. But every reader who has registered for the book has looked at it long enough to be interested in it. Some even mark it “to-read,” so if they don’t win the book they may see it on their book page later and decide to order it. At any rate, it allows many readers to get a glimpse of your book and decide if it looks interesting.
If you want an unbiased review of your Christian book by a Christian author, you can join the Christian Books Only Review Group. I’m one of the first members of this group. Any Christian author can join and we’re currently looking for more members. You can find this group here.
On your author page you can:
- post your author profile.
- allow your blog to feed to your Goodreads author page.
- activate the “Ask an Author” setting to allow readers to ask you questions.
- advertise your book.
- list giveaways.
- upload excerpts from your book.
- upload book trailers and videos.
The great thing about all these “Must-have Homes” is that they can work together to make each other stronger. Every time you post a blog it can automatically feed to your Author Central, Facebook Author Page, and Goodreads Author Page. Because these all link together, someone can find you on one form of social media and follow another form for more detail.
My Book Launch
I am in the process of publishing a Christian Cozy Mystery. I plan to launch Broken Windows on January 16, 2115. While the factual nature of Edges of Truth gave us an opportunity for a phenomenal book launch, this book is fiction and lacks much of that potential. I live in Invercargill, New Zealand, which isn’t the end of the world, but you can see it from here. I don’t have much of a fan base in my present location. But I plan to use these four homes to plan an exciting virtual book launch. I’ll give you a peek at these plans so you can see one way to make them work for your book.
I can announce the release of my book in my Cozy Mystery Group and my Christian Fiction Group with Goodreads. I’ll update my Amazon Central Page, my website, Facebook Page, and Goodreads Author Page, and offer a free download of the first chapter in several places. I’ll start a Goodreads Giveaway on that day and give away three copies of my new book. I’ll also activate the Ask an Author Setting on Goodreads. I have a fun, interactive activity planned for my Facebook Page. Anyone who leaves a comment on that will go into the draw to win a free copy. And I hope that some of those readers will begin to follow my blog on my website, Facebook Page, or in Goodreads. You can follow me on my blog here.
This is a very long article. Congratulations if you have persevered to the end. If you are an author working to promote your own book, I hope you’ve found something helpful here. May the Lord encourage you during this holiday season as you seek his will in communicating his message!
[Image courtesy of Vladislav-Mitic/Deposit Photos.]