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!
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