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Creative Book Marketing and Promotion Ideas for Indie Authors and Self-published Books

headshot of Debbie Young

Debbie Young shares the ALLi hive’s latest book marketing tips

For the last year we’ve been running a monthly round-up post called “Book Marketing Shots in the Dark“, in which we’ve shared some terrific advice from self-published authors around the world. Some of their success stories were arrived at almost by accident, following counter-intuitive ideas that had turned out better than anyone might have expected. But a growing number of them have resulted from intentional creativity, so from this month I’m changing the title of the series to do better justice to the authors responsible.

The inventiveness of the indie sector is often a source of inspiration to the marketeers at trade publishers these days – go, indies!

Now on with this month’s collection of top tips – feel free to lift them for your own marketing plan…

Joint Promotions by Groups of Authors

Head and shoulders shot of Katherine Hayton

New Zealand novelist Katherine Hayton

One of the latest ideas under the spotlight is cross-promotion by groups of indie authors via the new InstaFreebie service, which is designed to enable authors to give away free books (and, if you use the paid-for option, available on a month’s free trial, to collect readers’ email addresses in return).

You can use Instafreebie to promote just your own books, but you get a lot more traction if you join forces with others. Last autumn on the ALLi blog, Katharine Hayton drew attention to Instafreebie with her very practical post inspiring others to do just that.

As I write this, I’m pleased to be part of a twelve-author InstaFreebie campaign tagged Free Reads for Smart Women. Each of us is offering a free book in return for mailing list sign-ups. With each of us drawing on her own special skills and spheres of influence, our group is definitely greater than the sum of the parts.

Array of book covers

Our Instafreebie campaign may be greater than the sum of the parts – though we like to think the parts are pretty smart too!

Katharine’s post explained very clearly how InstaFreebie works from the author’s perspective, but if you’d like the reader’s perspective, visit the Free Reads for Smart Women landing page, hosted on Helena Halme’s website, before the end of February when the offer expires. Feel free to click on any of the books you fancy to see what happens and how the process works. You don’t have to be a woman to take part, or to enjoy these books, but we’ll take it as read that you’re smart! (Doing so will by definition require you to sign up to the mailing lists of the authors whose books you’ve chosen, and to InstaFreebie’s, but don’t worry, you can unsubscribe at any time afterwards.)

Social media banner for Free Reads by Smart Women campaign

A united front from 12 women writers

When you see how easy it is to choose and download the free ebooks of your choice, giving the system oodles of reader appeal, I think you may want to try a campaign of this kind yourself. If you do, try to collaborate with authors who are either in the same genre as you, or whose books will appeal to the same kind of reader. In our group of twelve, we have all kinds of books, but we reckon they’ll all appeal to “smart women”. Confession: in a Freudian slip, I described it in my newsletter as “Free Reads BY Smart Women” – but I’m happy to stand by that!

Targeting Specialist Shops

Image of cover of one of Lorna Sixsmith's books

Lorna Sixsmith’s books about being farmer’s wife are now available in farm shops

Moving now to the world offline, we often have discussions on the ALLi Facebook forum (access to this closed group is just one of 21 great reasons to join ALLi) about how to get self-published books into bricks-and-mortar bookshops, but of course

bookshops are not the only shops that sell books

This month Irish author Lorna Sixsmith, who writes books about being a farmer’s wife, shares her experience of targeting specialist shops that your book’s readership will visit. In her case, farm shops are just right, because the kind of person who enjoys buying produce there is also the sort who might be curious about finding out what it’s like to be on the other side of the counter.

Lorna’s books are already available to bookshops in her native Ireland via wholesalers, but when she wanted to reach UK readers. she decided UK farm shops would be a more viable alternative than UK bookshops. Here she describes how she did it and the encouraging progress so far:

I’ve started by contacting a number of farm shops that sell gifts as well as food. This started in November, and, to date, my books are stocked in seven farm shops and by the Scottish charity, RSABI. I supply on a sale or return basis and I pay postage if they take a full box (30 books) and try the books for at least 3 months. So far, two stockists have ordered a second box with one book selling particularly.

What specialist shops your books might be a good fit for? Will you give it a go?

Networking with the Past

headshot of Lynne Pardoe

Lynne Pardoe recommends networking via your alumni organisation

With so much emphasis on networking online and in the current moment, it’s easy to overlook your past as a source of opportunity. Not for British novelist Lynne Pardoe, who says “I joined my university alumni association and listed myself as an author of social work fiction.” If you discovered that someone you were at college with was now a published author, wouldn’t you want to know more about her books, and maybe even give one a try? This has to be a low-budget option worth pursuing.

Bookish Acts of Kindness

Headshot of Janet Pywell

Novelist Janet Pywell turned her books literally into beach reads

There’s something exciting about using your books to commit random acts of kindness by quietly leaving them somewhere readers might find them. British novelist Janet Pywell, who lives on the Kentish coast, turned one of her books literally into a beach read: 

“Last Easter I left twelve copies of my book on the beach and around Whitstable for people to pick up, read and pass on.”

OVER TO YOU If you have a great creative marketing idea to share, we’d love to hear about it!

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