If you want to write your novel in 1 year, you’ve got a busy time ahead of you. The above infographic shows some of the myriad of tasks necessary, but your tasks involve a whole lot more than simply writing.
Now you may think, whoa, my publisher is doing most of the heavy lifting. I just need to concentrate of the creative process outlined above and I’ve certainly heard this from folks who plan to publish traditionally. They think only Indie writers need to focus on all the other tasks associated with writing a successful book.
Well, maybe that was true at one point and, if you’re an established writer like James Patterson or a celebrity like former President Clinton (who are currently writing a novel together), that’s still the case. But, for a debut book by an unknown author, you’ll likely get very little in the way of marketing support from your publisher in exchange for handing over the lion’s share of the profits (and don’t count on generous advances to support your writing–I’ve heard book advance numbers around $15,000 for debut novels and a little higher for multi-book deals).
So, over the course of your writing year, plan to balance writing with book marketing. DON’T, I repeat, don’t wait until you finish the book to start marketing it.
Write your novel and market it
While I’m not saying you should start marketing before you write your novel, I do think the two elements should happen concurrently regardless of whether you plan to publish traditionally or self-publish. In fact, spending time marketing will help you get an agent and a publishing contract because you’re offering them evidence that people like your book.
Beware of book marketing scams
I think it’s important to warn you against handing your marketing over to someone else. You nephew might be great on Facebook or have lots of Instagram followers, but that doesn’t mean he’s good at marketing books. And, there are lots of scam artists out there ready to take your money and I hear lots of horror stories about folks who’ve lost their life savings by trusting these businesses to market their books, thinking they’ll sell so many books they’ll recoup their investment quickly. Some may deliver on their promise, but most do little more than send links to your books to their paltry social networks, post a review and a blog post about your book that gets lost in the noise of the internet (many don’t have enough visibility or visitors to generate much in the way of buzz for your book), then disappear with your money.
If you do decide to trust a book marketing firm, here are some things to check:
- the size of their social networks — check out Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc to see how many friends/ followers they have. Do the same with Goodreads.
- check out their website to see where they rank. Does it show up on the first page when you do an incognito search for books in your genre or under book marketing (just use the Chrome browser and look for incognito window under the file dropdown — using an incognito window gives you an unbiased view of search rankings that you don’t get when you view search results normally).
- next, look at their pagerank and Alexa rank — just Google these to find links to these tools.
Notice, most of the traffic is from the US, so if you’re looking for a global or non-US audience, the marketing site isn’t gonna help you much.
A more serious concern is the high bounce rate — 81.6%. Bounce rate reflects visits where the user only saw one page. Practically, this means the user was interested in a book, saw the marketing page for that book then left without seeing all the other great books on the site. This is not a good sign. That’s supported by the time on site, which is barely enough to adequately read an article — 1:48. And, all these stats are falling, which means the problem is getting worse, not better.
Market your book
First, you need to have a schedule that balances writing with marketing. Maybe you set up certain days as marketing days and other days to write your book. Maybe you spend part of each day divided between the 2 tasks. I will caution you against dividing your time into small chunks as both marketing and writing take a concentrated block of time.
Next, you need a plan and I encourage you to write it down.
Finally, you need a set of goals and tactics for reaching your goal.
Here’s my suggestion for marketing on a shoestring:
- Create profiles or pages on various social networks–Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Goodreads … Work on building those networks by reaching out to other writers, friends and family, and others who might have interest in your book.
- The jury is out on whether writers need a website. My personal feeling is that it’s an important part of book marketing. If you decide you want to invest a few dollars (you can do it pretty effectively with as little as $100), don’t go for a WordPress.com, Wix, Square, or other site that promises you a fast and easy website solution. The problem with these sites is it’s almost impossible to rank well on Google, so your website gets pretty lonely.
- Integrate all your marketing efforts by listing your other profiles and website address on everything you do. Link your book cover and use it prominently on all your marketing efforts. That means you need to move up the task of cover design earlier as you write your book.
- Build engagement with readers by posting interesting content on your social networks and encouraging them to interact with you. Learn more about how to create engagement here. Don’t over promote your own work. A common recommendation is that only 20% of content should promote your books. Fill the other 80% with reviews of other authors, inside looks at the writing process, even personal information about you. People feel more connected when they view you as a friend rather than a commercial enterprise and they love behind-the-scenes views of the writing process.
- Share chapters of your book as you write and ask for feedback from your community.
- Join networks with other authors to support each other’s marketing efforts. Be a good member by paying it forward before asking for help. There are groups on Goodreads and Facebook to help with this task.
- Don’t forget the importance of offline marketing efforts. I spent a few dollars having a t-shirt made with my book cover on the front and a link to my webpage on the back. I also have postcards with a synopsis and other marketing material. People stop to ask about my shirt and I give them a postcard to remember me. I wear this to book events and other places where I might find readers.
Write your novel
At the risk of seeming crass, I think you need to think about marketing as you write your book. This may be heresy to some, but I think you need to consider marketing in developing characters, plots, scenes, and even genres. Not everything sells equally well.
For instance a nice, flowery literary fiction novel might earn an MFA, but they don’t play well with today’s readers, so your potential is limited. Include rough sex and it may appeal to some and turn off others. Offer characters that resonate with underserved markets and you may capitalize on increased sales because there’s not much competition for those readers. If you do it without alienating the rest of the market and you’ve done a great job.
Some final thoughts
Obviously, I’ve only scratched the surface of what you can do to help write your book and market it well. Subscribe here.
Latest news from Buried Ladies
So, things are moving at a brisk pace. In addition to attending the Brain to Books Cyber Convention last week, we have lots of exciting things going on.
- I’m finishing up Book 2, Scars of the Past. You’ll get to see many of your old friends from Book 1 and some quirky (and sinister) new ones. I’d love to get more Beta readers for this book, which should be ready by the end of February for comments. Sign up here.
- If you’ve already purchased (or received a gifted copy) Buried Ladies, please consider writing an honest review (use the link below). And, if you didn’t like it, please send me specific comments so I can improve the next book. If you don’t have a copy yet, enter get it on Amazon (FREE on Kindle Unlimited, $2.99 Kindle, $9.99 paperback).