Last week, we looked at how to emulate screenwriting tricks in your writing. This week, let’s take a look at how you can borrow some of the marketing tools the big studios use.
1. Build it, they will come
Postcards are a great way to get the word out in your local area. Having the book cover on one side and some information about yourself on the back works well, and you'll find that cafes are very amenable to stocking your cards for you (especially if you buy a coffee from them at the time of asking – just watch your caffeine intake as you do the rounds!).
2. Release the soundtrack
Did you have some favourite songs that accompanied the writing of your novel? Was there a particular song guaranteed to get you out of that mid-novel confidence crisis?
Share these with your readers on Facebook and Twitter – let them hear the soundtrack of your novel.
3. Do the press "junkets"
Along with the promo posters and everything, there are all the interviews that take place with the lead actors, building up the hype for the story and the juicy behind-the-scenes gossip.
This is the time you need to contact bloggers and book reviewers. Read their submission guidelines carefully, ensure you’re pitching to people interested in your genre, and be polite. A great way to open doors is to offer free eBooks as prizes.
4. Create a buzz about your characters
You want readers to feel that they know your characters off the page, not just as part of a story.
If you’re writing fantasy, for example, you could share pictures of the maps you might have created when building your world. Or, if you had a difficult scene to write, did you use a flowchart to work out how it would all fit together? Read more about behind-the-scenes ideas here.
Space opera author Amanda Bridgeman applies the above marketing tricks really well with her Aurora series, devising uniforms and logos for her crew members and even designing a flight deck for their spacecraft. There’s a great post here about the process she employed to do this, and if you take a look at her website, you’ll see that the theme flows through that, too.
Amanda's new book, Aurora:Meridian is released on 11 September, so you’ll be able to see all this in action - here's the link to Amazon so you can add it to your "To Be Read" pile!
1. There are five Acts, not three
That tricky middle section? Split it into three parts, giving you five in total. For a start, it makes it more manageable.
Secondly, it ensures you “lift” the action at the end of each of those extra Acts – the critical points for the reader.
2. People don't really talk like that, do they?
Listen to how people talk. For example, gang members don’t enunciate properly. They don’t say “is not”, they say “isn’t”.
If you’re writing genre fiction, don’t worry about your characters speaking the way they might in, say, literary fiction. Use short sentences, questions to create tension, and don’t forget that in real life, people always interrupt each oth –
3. Credit, credit, credit
4. I'd like to thank the Academy...
Following on from (3) above, your friends, family, writing tribe, and pet dog aren’t going to mind if you put your acknowledgements section at the end of the book after the story is finished.
This is the time to put together your acceptance speech – and plug your other books, or direct people to your social media outlets. And don’t forget to ask for a review.
Next week, we'll take a look at marketing. Now, pass the popcorn - the film's about to start.
1. Have an eye-catching cover
At the risk of repeating a common tip, having an eye-catching cover is essential. You want your book to stand out and yell “hey – over here!”.
Visit your local bookshop and browse online bookstores. Check out the books in the same category as yours – what are the common denominators? Will it show up on a shelf full of similar stories? What are you going to do to make yours stand out from the rest?
Of course, it goes without saying that you need to find a cover designer you can bounce ideas around with – and don’t be afraid to start from scratch if you don’t like what you see the first time around. It’s your money. Spend it wisely.
2. Have a kick-arse blurb
If a picture paints a thousand words, then the back cover blurb does the rest.
You need to research how other books in similar genres are described. Write down key words that keep cropping up. See how there’s a kind of “beat” to the way in which blurbs are written? Look for the pace of the blurbs you want to emulate, and don’t be afraid to pass the blurb around to your beta readers for feedback – the blurb is as important as the novel itself.
3. Round up your tribe
You know the ones – the friends that don’t mind you seeking their help to spread the word, your Facebook contacts, the people on your mailing list, the neighbours, the postman – WHOEVER.
Round them up. Prep them. Get them on message. THE BOOK IS COMING OUT – HELP ME.
And remember to thank them.
Grovel, in fact, because you’re going to do it all over again for the next one.
4. I got my book before you, na-na na-na-naaaa!
Amazon, Kobo and Smashwords now offer pre-ordering options for eBooks and my advice is to get your book up and ready for pre-order about 4-6 weeks before its official release date. Don’t just offer it as a pre-order though – offer it at a reduced price during the pre-order period, so there’s an incentive for new readers.
Smashwords’ pre-order strategy is explained well in this article by owner, Mark Coker.
Amazon and Kobo are very similar – you set up your eBook file, nominate a release date, and then begin to market the pre-order across your social media. On the day of release, all those sales go through the system at the same time, helping you climb the charts and gain extra visibility to new readers.
5. Give it away, give it away, give it away, give it away now!
With apologies to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, you need to have a think about creating new avenues for your book to be discovered. The best way I’ve found new readers is to work with reviewers, bloggers and some of the big book websites to do giveaways.
It’s really useful if you’ve got paperback copies of your book, because signed copies seem to get more attention than eBooks sometimes, although I encountered a healthy demand for both with Before Nightfall.
I’d tried a Goodreads giveaway before with my last novel, Under Fire, and was pleased with the number of entries for that, but the entries for Before Nightfall were trickling in nicely when, for some reason (possibly because of the pre-order strategy mentioned above), Goodreads chose to feature the forthcoming book at the top of its monthly email newsletter to readers. Within hours of excited friends (see 3, above) emailing me copies of the newsletter they’d received in their mailboxes, the number of entries for the giveaway increased considerably.
As for eBook copies, these are an easy way to spice up an interview or a review on someone else's website, and it's always nice if a competition winner takes the time to post a review.
So, will the above tips guarantee you a bestseller? Maybe, maybe not. Heck, I don’t even know if they’ll guarantee me another bestseller.
But it’s worth giving your new book a fighting chance, right? Go on, then - unleash those ninjas!
3. Workshops and Masterclasses
It doesn't matter how much or how little you've written to date - there's always something to learn.
Someone will always put a different 'spin' on a problem you might be encountering, or show you how to apply a technique you haven't tried before, and suddenly that light bulb will switch on over your head and you'll be tearing through the words again.
You'll get a lot of the above from an online group as well, so if you're based in a remote location, take a look around, join a specific Facebook/Google+ group or blog, and introduce yourself.
And if you live in a town where there isn't a local writers centre, why not approach your local library and start one there? You'll probably discover you're not alone.
What do you think? Do you have a writers centre you can access, or are you thinking about starting one? What do you enjoy about the writers centre (or group) you belong to?
Feel free to put a link to your writing group in the comments below.
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