Aside from book production and distribution, many self-publishing companies also offer marketing packages. These are usually a rather expensive, optional extra. Marketing is an area where many self-publishers feel out of their depth. It’s easy for unscrupulous companies to throw some flashy-looking materials at them and charge several hundred pounds in exchange.
Really good marketing packages are labour intensive. An experienced professional should spend time with you (in person or online), finding out about the project and planning how best to get your book noticed by the right people. You should get plenty of expert advice on how to launch and promote your book. Planning, particularly for print books, should begin several months before publication.
The Importance of Social Media
The internet and social media are where self-publishers generally make their mark, connecting with, and selling directly to, their readers. Ensure the company you hire is fully conversant in this area. If they’re sending out press releases, the mailshot should include online sites, as well as traditional print media. Check if the package provider itself has a strong online presence, both through its own website and social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. Do they use these sites to promote their authors or merely to sell their own services?
Attracting Media Attention
Well designed and eye-catching press releases should be included in relevant marketing packages. Your package provider should be skilled in putting these together, highlighting whatever special features about you or your book are most likely to attract media attention.
However, more important than the release, itself, is what you do with it. It’s no good if your package provider simply doles out a pile of press releases and expects you to take it from there. A good self-publishing service should also have access to, or be able to put together, mailing lists of magazines, newspapers, websites and blogs that are likely to have an interest in whatever genre you’re writing in.
National newspapers are not going to announce your book on their front page so knowledge of relevant specialist press/blogs or the ability to hunt them out, is essential.
Your package provider should either approach these people on your behalf or show you exactly how to do so yourself.
Marketing to the Book Trade
Think carefully about taking out expensive ads in magazines, such as Publisher’s Weekly, which are read solely by those in the book trade. You won’t reach customers and it’s highly unlikely a trade buyer will stock your book, merely based on a single ad.
If you really want to get onto the shelves of bookstores, then you need to choose a marketing package from a company who has strong links with the traditional trade distribution network and who are honest enough to advise if this is a viable option for you. A package provider with the ability to think imaginatively and steer you towards relevant specialist or local outlets is highly desirable.
Marketing packages aimed at the book trade will probably include the production of an Advance Information sheet (AI). An AI is an A4 flyer used when approaching bookshops. It serves a dual purpose: it provides the bookseller with the technical data they need on your book, whilst, at the same time, pitching it to them as a sales opportunity by highlighting those elements most likely to appeal to the shop’s customers.
What to Expect From a Package
Avoid companies who only give you:
- Printed materials (posters, leaflets, bookmarks etc). You can create these yourself for a fraction of the cost.
- General guides on how to market. Advice on marketing is available from inexpensive books and free blogs across the internet.
- Templates for you to create your own Advance Information sheets and press releases. You can find free templates, yourself, using any search engine.
If this is all you’re getting in return for several hundred pounds, then you’re throwing your money away.
It’s the work self-publishers, themselves, do online which most often gets them noticed. Before taking out any paid-for packages, I would encourage authors to search the internet for free resources, instructionals and ideas, focusing particularly on social media.
If you find yourself overwhelmed by an excess of information, a good place to start is Smashword’s founder, Mark Coker’s, excellent free marketing guide.
Only take out expensive packages when you’ve ascertained that they offer services and/or expertise that you can’t access, yourself.