The number one question people ask—rightly so—is “How do I market my book?”
To answer that, we have to start with the foundations of your business. Is your publishing program focused in such a way that marketing opportunities abound?
Like an architect, you need to design your writing business!
What will you publish?
Who is your audience?
How will you market and sell?
Once you decide these things, your business can start to take shape because they all work together. I can’t overemphasize the importance of this step! You MUST look at your business overall first so you can plan the parts to fit together.
Typical Indie Publishers
Here are some typical indie publishers, each with a different approach.
HANDSOME HARDCOVER: This author (often author-illustrator) only publishes hardcover picture books and sells through Amazon’s Fulfill by Amazon (FBA) or one of Amazon’s other programs. His audience is parents and teachers who buy through Amazon. He spends money on high-quality illustrations and offset prints cheaply, usually overseas. Kickstarter is a favorite funding method because the hardcover inventory is a big upfront investment. School visits often add an income stream.
EBOOK TEEN: This author only publishes ebooks and writes teen urban fantasy or other popular genres. She concentrates on reaching the teens, so has accounts on Instagram (#bookstagrammer), Twitter and Facebook. She spends her money on great covers and online advertising. KU (Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s subscription service; requires exclusive listing) is a strong environment for this author’s titles, and she’s got a killer mailing list.
COURAGEOUS MIDDLE GRADE: One of the hardest audiences to reach is the middle grade reader. Unlike teens, you can’t reach them on social media. Instead, you must target parents, and fiction is a hard sell. Humor and contemporary novels tend to do better, but success is a book-by-book case. This author offers both ebooks and paperbacks, with paperbacks traditionally selling better (that may change after COVID). Amazon ads and the Amazon ecosystem are her best friends. Often, though, this author also focuses on school visits as a way to sell books and build an audience.
EBOOK KIDS: This author only does ebooks of children’s picture books. Often the art is minimal, inexpensive or stock photos. These books often appeal to parents and educators, so they are often about social skills, self-esteem and educational topics. KU is an essential strategy, so this author works their Amazon ads and the whole Amazon ecosystem. If the author adds picture books to the mix, they can snag some school visits, too.
GUTSY JACK-OF-ALL-FORMATS: This author does everything: ebook, audiobook, paperback and hardcover. Generally, they are all released at the same time (when convenient) or as they are produced. He concentrates on getting the widest distribution possible and follows up on every sales lead; he’s often the first indie in a distribution stream. He’s stingy with his money, but will spend it on ads which have a strong ROI (which he monitors daily!). School visits are often profitable.
NICHE NANCY: This author has found the perfect niche for her titles. She loves, for example, horse books and horse lovers, and knows exactly when/where to find them. She never has to stray outside her narrow world, because it’s a rich, rewarding life writing about her passions. Kickstarter is a favorite funding method since she can easily reach horse lovers who are passionate enough to help fund a great book on their favorite topic.
BOOKSTORE JOE: This author has set up an online bookstore to sell titles. He sells ebooks, hardcover, paperback and related merchandise. He’s got a killer email list and often spends money on Pinterest or Facebook ads to keep his traffic levels high. (This one is rare, but expect more of it in the future.)
TEACHERS-PAY-TEACHERS SALLY: This author focuses on the educational market and has probably been a classroom teacher. She writes and produces lesson plans for other teachers. Pinterest is a killer source of traffic and sales.
Each author has a valid business plan for reaching the right readers of their books. Can you see that EBOOK MANIAC has different needs than GUTSY?
EBOOK MANIAC/KIDS only needs to learn marketing on Amazon, only needs to learn to produce Kindle ebooks, and only worries about reaching the teen/kids audience.
GUTSY, on the other hand, has the skills needed to produce Kindle, epub, audiobook, paperbacks and hardcovers. BOOKSTORE JOE also does multiple formats, but adds in merchandising. The variety of formats increases possible sales for these two, but the market isn’t as targeted as MANIAC’s or NANCY’s.
There are no right/wrong answers. There are only decisions that help you make a profit and keep you happy creatively—or not.
What other types of self-publishers would you describe? Which one describes YOU?