It’s a jungle out there, and everybody else is trying to kill you.
Showing up and putting your book out into the world isn’t enough. You’ve got to weaponize, strategize and kill off the competition. Here are some unconventional book marketing tips that will help you win.
Choose the right tools
You’re sprinting into a competitive marketplace and trying to survive. There’s so many cool tools to use. Swords and arrows and health kits and more. You don’t have time to grab everything. You need to do what works for YOU. If you aren’t comfortable on social media, don’t use it. If WordPress seems too hard to figure out, use SquareSpace. If you love taking pictures, dominate instagram. If you’re most comfortable speaking, make YouTube videos. If you love writing, blog – a LOT.
The secret to book sales is getting amazing content in front of the right readers. One super creative idea could be worth 100 mediocre blog posts. Find something you can do extraordinarily well, and make that your one thing.
Build your allies
You can’t survive without a TEAM. Every successful book launch is a team effort. Find your supporters and allies. Who else can you help? How can you trade your skills, abilities and resources to help other authors writing in the same genre or field? What organizations or groups or movements can you connect with and support, who would be interested in your story. Even if you just start a local Facebook group for writers in your genre, 10 people working together can take over the world.
Isolation is dangerous. Groups survive together. But don’t ask for help – focus on providing for others and earning social karma so that they’ll be for you when you need them. The best way to make friends is to be a friend.
Don’t eat the poisonous berries
This one is tricky, but listen up: self-publishing is the new gold rush. Most people are selling shovels. Small presses and author service companies and “book marketing” opportunities are sprouting up everywhere. 75% of them are bullshit, and will take a cut of your earnings without providing any value.
Is their website beautiful and well-designed? Are the other covers on their site jaw-droppingly beautiful? In my opinion, anybody charging you or taking a cut of sales who doesn’t first fix your CORE ISSUES (editing, cover design, book summary) are scamming you – because nothing they do to promote you will work without fixing those issues.
Nobody else is going to learn this stuff for you. Don’t just signup with anybody who shows interest or says they can help. Learn to distinguish between real experts and amateurs. Do they have books of their own? Are they bestsellers? Learn to watch for traps. Don’t take what looks like the easy, inviting road without figuring out the system. Allies will help with this. I get it, it’s overwhelming and scary. It feels safe to just sign up with someone else who promises to do everything for you. That’s a mistake most of the time.
Dress the part: you decide how people view you
Katniss isn’t a people person. She hates playing the game and being entertainment. But with the help of her friends, she learns that getting the support of the people is power. And that she can do it by telling her story and dressing the part.
Your author story is what you make of it. Don’t just be another writer. Be an artist. Be a brilliant beacon of creative genius. Be a symbol, on fire with passion for a cause you champion. Stand for something. If you stand for nothing, figure out what’s important to your target readers, what they care about, and find a cause they can get behind.
Then be a fervent supporter. Make that part of your writing story. Don’t just write books to write books and entertain or educate. Connect with something greater. Then rebrand yourself with stunning visuals. Your website, your author photos, your book covers… it’s all a part of your brand. Use Canva for beautiful images. Make your writing visual, by sharing image quotes.
Don’t let the interaction you have with people be accidental. You don’t have to work to make people like you, if you wear a beautiful magical dress that catches on fire when you spin. Dress the part. Be remarkable. Delight and awe. Make people feel.
Rage against the machine
The man is profiting from your struggle to survive. Amazon doesn’t give a shit whether your book is successful. It offers the arena, it gives everyone a chance – but only the strongest, best will survive. Their only concern is that the general public receive as much entertainment as possible (so that they can keep control of the market).
I’ve heard authors say they hate Amazon so will only sell ebooks from their own website instead. That’s a bad move. You need to be IN the system, but looks for cracks in the interface. You need to find ways to harness the power of Amazon / iBooks to reach the people. Katniss would be nothing, nobody, if she stayed in District 12. By going to the Hunger Games, even as the system tries to use her to maintain control, she subtly subverts and challenges it.
Use Amazon / iBooks to reach your readers. Use all that energy and effort that they are spending on delivering the right content to the right buyers. But make sure you are building your own relationships, and getting readers back to your site to sign up to your email list, so that you can operate successfully outside the system.
You have to please the crowd
Most authors hate the idea of writing for their audience. They don’t like the idea of “selling out” by considering the market. This is vain and foolish. If you enjoy writing but don’t want anybody to read it, ever, and don’t want to make any money, that’s fine. Your choice.
I want my books to make a difference. I want readers to love reading them. That doesn’t happen by accident. I have to know what readers are expecting. I have to be thinking, how can I make this scene hit just a little harder. How can I make readers feel deeper. Maybe the romance with Peeta was hyped up a bit, to make viewers sympathize more with Katniss.
For her, it felt dishonest. But it also got viewers invested in her story, so they were willing to send her care packages and gifts when she needed them most. Don’t be afraid to tweak your story to make it resonate even more with your readers: but to do that, you’ve got to really understand your market and make sure you’re writing for other people, not just yourself.
Protect and help those weaker than you
Don’t use all of your efforts to promote yourself and stay alive. The loner survivalist only fighting for their own success will be the first to die off. Don’t be spammy. Build goodwill by helping and supporting others. Find a cause and share it. Find great content and share it. Sharing and helping others is the easiest way to build a strong author platform. Cultivate generous actions. As you grow, find ways to give back and help. Even when it doesn’t serve you. Even when the cameras aren’t watching. Let yourself be moved, and respond.
Share your vulnerability. Share your pain and hurt and anger. Let people in. Give them a reason to care.
Go back for round two
Publishing one book is great, but it’s hard to be successful. Katniss barely survived the first round of the Hunger Games… and being called back the following year was tragic. But know she was more experienced. She understood the system better. She was able to harness her friendships and allies.
Publishing gets easier and easier. The first one or two books takes a tremendous amount of effort. Don’t give up. Don’t retire. Write another book. Polish your skills. Keep participating until you see the cracks in the system and understand how to make things work for you. Then blow the whole damn world up with your bestselling book. Hit #1 in all the categories. Get millions of readers. Change the world.