Written by: Alex Mika
In a previous article, I described the process of self publishing a book on a minimal budget. In that article, I also mentioned that one of the major drawbacks of self publishing is the fact that most independent authors don’t have the network that an established traditional publishing house may have. This lack of connections makes the process of exposing your work to an audience beyond your immediate circle difficult. In this article, I’ll cover some of the ways in which self publishing authors can develop their own network and get their work in the hands of new readers and reviewers.
All in the Timing
When it comes to picking a release date for your book, make sure you have given yourself enough time to promote it and send it to reviewers. Typically, you should start working on promotion at least five months before the release date. This may sound like a lot, but it will go by very quickly.
Build a Team
Reach out to family members, friends, colleagues, and fans with whom you feel comfortable asking for some assistance in this process. Once you get them on board, create an email list or group chat in which you will be able to communicate and brainstorm promotional ideas. Some ways in which you can get this team involved include:
- Sending them a free copy of the book to write a review as soon as the book is released. Just note, certain websites like Amazon can block reviews if they believe that the reviewer is directly connected to the author. In order to provide a valuable review, the reader will have to purchase a copy, and a “verified purchase” marker will be placed next to the review. These reviews will also boost your book’s Amazon rank.
- Asking them to share news on their active platforms and to promote the book to their contacts.
- Adding the title to their Goodreads account, if they have one.
The most important role this team will play is reviewing the book as soon as it is released. Amazon will artificially boost your book’s rank for the first 24-72 hours, placing it on “new releases” pages and giving it some amount of exposure. After about a week, your book’s rank will drop. To minimize this drop, you want to get as many purchases and reviews in that first week as possible. As I mentioned, verified purchase reviews go a long way in boosting your book’s rank, and will keep the title on those front pages for longer, reaching more potential readers. As the release date nears, make sure your team has received early copies of the book and prepared a review, or that they will be ready to purchase the title and write the review as soon as possible.
One place that can be really useful for promoting your book is Book Life, an offshoot of Publishers Weekly dedicated to self published authors. They feature directories for assistance in writing, publishing, marketing, and licensing your work. You can also submit your title for consideration for free review and promotion through Publishers Weekly, though a review is not guaranteed.
Reviewers and Book Blogs
Reviewers and book blogs are one of the main reasons why it is crucial to set a release date five months later than when your book is more or less ready for publication. With so many authors trying to get their work reviewed, these sites have piles of books to get through, and will need a considerable amount of time to do so if they are to get the review ready for publication day. The massive amount of competition also means that many reviewers will not get to your book, so send it out to as many relevant places as possible. As an example, I received about one accepted review for every ten requests I sent out.
To save your own (and the reviewer’s) time, make sure that your book is something that they would be interested in reading. Many reviewers will leave instructions on their submissions pages and note their favorite genres, but if they don’t, a quick look at the work they have done will give a good indication.
If the reviewer or blog does not feature their own submission instructions and simply provides a contact email, here is a review request template that you can use when drafting your email. I would highly recommend personalizing the email a bit and demonstrating that you are familiar with their work: it makes you stand out and can go a long way in establishing a connection with the reviewer.
Review Request Template
Dear [Reviewer Name],
[Personal introduction] Please consider the following submission for review: [Book Title], by [Author Name]
[Brief Author Bio]
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Finding Reviewers and Bloggers
If you’re looking for a place to start finding these reviewers and book bloggers, here are some great resources:
Choose Your Promotional Platforms
With limited time and resources, it’s important to select a few spaces in which you intend to maintain an active presence before, during, and after the release of your book. A great place to start is to create a website that will serve as the center of your efforts. Here, you can create a page about yourself and your work, tie it to your social media accounts, start a mailing list, feature reviews, and provide purchase links (and if you enjoy blogging, this could be the place to start one). Really make this space your own, and let it reflect who you are as an author and as a person.
When it comes to social media, each platform has its own primary audiences and perks. Facebook works well for creating groups and communities, Instagram is great for visual storytelling, and Twitter provides a space for the written word to shine. Depending on your preferences and strengths, you may want to use one or a couple of these sites, but if you use all of them, it’s best to maintain a fairly consistent aesthetic or persona across media. That’s not to say that you should post the same thing on all three sites, but that you should use the various advantages of each to build your image, and in turn, an audience.
While building your social media presence and sending your book to reviewers are really effective ways of promoting yourself and your work, there are other ways to get your voice heard. Though it is becoming a fairly saturated field, podcasting provides an excellent opportunity to reach new listeners. Before releasing the book, you can create a miniseries in which you can read a chapter, talk about what inspired you to write the book, describe your process, recount interesting facts you discovered while researching, and cover any other relevant topics. You can also guest star on someone else’s podcast if you would prefer not to create your own.
Many book selling sites allow authors to purchase copies at printing cost, so you can also set up a public reading or book selling event to generate interest. Reach out to local newspapers, reading groups, and libraries to spread the word about your events. If you schedule these events before the official release date, you may find more potential reviewers or promotional team members.
If you can’t book live venues or would like to create a more accessible space, you may want to consider doing an online reading through a platform like Zoom, Webex, or Google Meet! This will allow you to invite audience members not in your immediate community, further developing your online presence. Connect with other self published authors to share your works together; it will not only be a wonderful networking opportunity, but also a chance to expose your personal audiences to each other’s works. One great online community for authors is The Book Marketing Network. There, you can find a number of forums and resources on a number of discussion topics, including one for those seeking to do joint readings.
Recap and Sample Schedule
While self publishing does not offer the same networking strength that a traditional publishing house can provide, this grassroots process still presents many opportunities for developing an audience. Self promotion can be a daunting task, with many factors, media, and dates to keep track of, but if you give yourself plenty of time and are organized, you may be able to get your book in the hands of new readers outside of your immediate sphere. Here is a sample schedule that you can follow:
5 months before the release date: Your book should be more or less ready for publication. Create a list and send initial queries to book review sites, blogs, and podcasts on which you would like to be featured. Choose the social media platforms on which you would like to be most active.
4 months before the release date: Follow up with the book review sites, blogs, and podcasts. After this point, follow up every 2-3 weeks, but don’t overdo it. Begin negotiating with spaces to schedule a reading event (events should occur close to the release date).
3 months before the release date: Start building and working with the promotional team. Keep them updated throughout this process.
2 months before the release date: If you don’t have one yet, start developing the website. Schedule reading events (online, in-person, or both).
1 month before the release date: Confirm with your reviewers that they will be able to review the book on or near release day. Start releasing sneak peeks on social media.
2 weeks before the release date: More sneak peeks. Create and send promotional materials for release day to your team.
1 week before the release date: Make sure everything is ready on the distribution sites. Continue building excitement on social media.
1 day before the release date: Another reminder to all reviewers.
Release Day: The big announcement on all social media platforms. The promotional team releases the materials on their platforms, as well. Ensure that all sale links are working. Celebrate and have a good night’s rest.