Every day, I see a slew of writing-related ads. Some guarantee that if you sign up for a “free” course (don’t read the fine print) you’ll sell a zillion books. Some offer to tweet for you and post Facebook ads for a (small/medium/large) monthly fee. There are publicists for hire, who promise to increase your visibility and help you sell more books. Then there are the thousands upon thousands of books on the craft of writing, often from people you’ve never read or heard of. There are also those offering editorial services, some of whom have no success to speak of in the book business. Finally, there are publishing companies that for $15-$20 grand and up will publish and promote your book.
Many of these ads and the people associated with them make me angry. I’m not saying there aren’t good folks out there who can genuinely help improve your writing and increase your sales. What I am saying is that those who can truly do so are few and far between.
But before we go any further, let’s be clear about one thing: You should NEVER pay to publish your book. The only exceptions are if you just want to do it for your family and friends, or consider it a lifelong goal no matter the cost.
With regard to editorial services, the overwhelming majority of writers use an editor. Well established authors use editors provided by their agents/publishers. Other authors, especially if they’re at an early stage in their careers, hire an editor for content and/or copyedit purposes. This is often crucial to the success of a book, for nothing turns readers off like disjointed plots, weak characters, grammar mistakes, and typos. In my humble opinion, if your book isn’t as close to perfect as you can get it, you have no business trying to sell it.
But it’s important to realize that an editor will not rewrite your book, nor can he or she guarantee it will get published. Furthermore, many editors charge the same fee regardless of how much editing your manuscript needs. I understand the reasoning here, from the perspective of the editor: some manuscripts require more work than others. Editors feel that by charging everyone the same rate, often a flat fee per page, everything evens out. And it does…for them, not the writer.
Beware of editors who offer little feedback. From the outset be clear as to the type and amount of feedback you expect. Here you really can’t be too cautious. Most editors will provide a sample edit of a chapter or a few pages. This is great; just make sure you’re satisfied with the sample and hold the editor responsible for being as diligent throughout the entire project.
Once you’re published, there are a plethora of services that offer to plaster social media with ads about your book. In my experience, ads on Facebook and Twitter do poorly. I have over 20,000 followers on Twitter and I could probably count on two hands the number of books I’ve sold that way.
Facebook and Twitter ads, however, provide some visibility. But I recommend you do your own posting, especially since you probably won’t sell too many books this way. Learn to use Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, or a similar program that will help you do it yourself. The same goes for publicists. Unless the person is well established—and if he or she is, you can expect to pay out the wazoo—you can do many things a publicist does. You can contact radio programs and blogsites, send out review copies, schedule some appearances and signings at bookstores, etc.
I’m skeptical of people who offer courses/insider tips on writing/marketing, especially if they charge for them. I don’t believe there are any tricks to writing/marketing. In fact, everything I’ve learned in the past several years can be summed up this way: Write the greatest book you possibly can—good is no longer enough—and then start writing the next one.
How do you write the greatest book you possibly can? Well, you start by reading great books—and poems, and stories, and plays, and screenplays, and non-fiction—and writing as often as you can. In terms of books on the craft, there are so many I fear some authors are trying to cash in on the insecurities we writers have by writing books that allegedly help, but often divert us from the one thing that will definitely improve our writing—namely, writing. That having been said, there are a handful of writing resources I wouldn’t do without. If you’re interested in hearing my recommendations, please contact me and I’ll be happy to share.
Okay, without further ado, I present my #1 tip for authors trying to market their great books and for readers who want to read them: BOOKBUB!
If you are a reader, you should really consider signing-up for Bookbub. It’s free, and every day you’ll receive an email blast letting you know about great discounted e-books in your chosen categories. You can get books for free, $0.99, $1.99, or $2.99. As a reader, I think it’s the greatest thing since pizza (or whatever food happens to be your weakness).
If you’re an author marketing a book, I don’t think anything beats Bookbub. You have to apply to get accepted, but applying is free. It’s tough to get approved, but you can keep applying if you get rejected, and you only pay if you’re accepted. Costs vary according to your genre and the price at which you want to sell your book (the free option is the least expensive, followed by $0.99, $1.99, and $2.99). Click here for a chart that gives you a general idea of the cost. If your book is accepted as a featured promotion, it will appear for one day in Bookbub’s daily e-mail blast. In terms of marketing / advertising it is the only thing that I’ve found truly effective (and I’ve tried just about everything). Trust me when I say the results, in terms of sales, will probably astound you.
Well, that’s it, friends. There you have my #1 tip for writers and readers and it hasn’t cost you a penny.
Please let me know if you have any questions. I’d love to hear about your writng/reading/marketing experiences!
All the best,